Despite Your Hearing Loss, You Can Survive That Holiday Office Party

Group of coworkers at office holiday party despite hearing loss

You’re bombarded by noise as soon as you arrive at the annual company holiday party. You can feel the pumping music, the thrum of shouted conversations, and the clattering of glasses.

It makes you miserable.

You can’t hear a thing in this noisy setting. The punch lines of jokes are missed, you can’t make out conversations and it’s all really disorienting. How can this be fun for anyone? But then you look around and see that you’re the only one that seems to be having difficulty.

This probably sounds familiar for individuals who are dealing with hearing loss. The office holiday party can introduce some unique stressors and consequently, what should be a fun occasion is nothing more than a dour, lonely event. But don’t worry! This little survival guide can help you get through your next holiday party unharmed (and maybe even have some fun while you’re at it).

Why holiday parties can be stressful

Even when you don’t have hearing loss, holiday parties are a distinct combination of stress and fun (particularly if you’re an introvert). If you struggle to hear when there is a lot of background noise, holiday parties have distinct stressors.

The noise itself is the most prominent. Think about it in this way: Holiday parties are your chance to loosen your tie and cut loose. As a result, they tend to be fairly noisy events, with lots of people talking over each other all at the same time. Could alcohol be a factor here? absolutely. But it can also be quite loud at dry office parties.

Some interference is created by this, especially for individuals who have hearing loss. That’s because:

  • Office parties include tons of people all talking over each other. It’s not easy to pick out one voice from many when you have hearing loss.
  • Talking, music, clinking dishes, laughing, all in the background. Your brain doesn’t always get enough information to isolate voices.
  • Indoor gatherings tend to amplify the noise of crowds, meaning an indoor office party is even tougher on your ears when you have hearing loss.

This means that picking up and following conversations will be challenging for people who have hearing loss. This may not sound like a big deal at first.

So… What is the big deal?

The big deal is the networking and professional aspect of things. Office holiday parties, even though they are surficially social events, a lot of networking takes place and connections are made. At any rate, attendance is often encouraged, so here we are. Here are a couple of things to think about:

  • You can network: Holiday parties are a great chance to network with employees from other departments or even catch up with co-workers in your own section. It’s a social event, but people will still talk shop, so it’s also a networking event. This can be a fantastic chance to forge connections. But when you’re dealing with hearing loss the noise can be overpowering and it can become hard to talk with anyone.
  • You can feel isolated: Who wants to be that person who’s always asking people to repeat what they said? This is one reason why hearing loss and solitude frequently go hand-in-hand. Even if you ask your family and friends to sometimes repeat themselves, it’s not the same with colleagues. They may mistake your hearing loss for incompetence. And that can damage your work reputation. So, instead, you might simply avoid interactions. You’ll feel excluded and left behind, and that’s not a fun feeling for anyone!

You might not even realize that you have hearing loss, which will make this an even bigger issue. Typically, one of the first indications of hearing loss is the inability to hear in crowded settings (like office parties or crowded restaurants).

As a result, you may be alarmed that you’re having a tough time following the conversation. And when you observe you’re the only one, you might be even more concerned.

Hearing loss causes

So what is the cause of this? How do you develop hearing loss? Typically, it’s caused by age or noise damage (or age and noise damage). Basically, as you age, your ears likely experience repeated injury as a result of loud noises. The delicate hairs in your ear that sense vibrations (called stereocilia) become compromised.

These tiny hairs never heal and can’t be healed. And your hearing will continue to get worse the more stereocilia that die. Your best bet will be to safeguard your hearing while you still have it because this kind of hearing loss is usually irreversible.

With this knowledge, there are ways you can make your holiday office party a bit less uncomfortable!

How to enjoy this year’s office party

Your office party presents some significant opportunities (and fun!), so you really want to go. So, when you’re in a noisy environment, how can you hear better? Well, here are some tips to make your office party go a little better:

  • Find a quieter place to talk with people: Try sitting off to the side or around a corner. When the background noise gets too loud, sitting behind stationary objects can give you little pockets that are slightly less loud.
  • Try to read lips: You will get better at this the more you practice. And it will never be perfect. But some gaps can be filled in with this technique.
  • Refrain from drinking too many cocktails: Communication will be less successful as your thinking gets blurry. Simply put, avoid the alcohol. It’ll make the whole process much easier.
  • Take listening breaks: Take a 15 minute quiet break every hour. This will help prevent you from getting totally exhausted after having to listen really hard.
  • Look at faces: Try to spend time with people who have really expressive faces and hand gestures when they talk. The more context clues you can get, the more you can fill in any gaps.

Of course, the best possible option is also one of the simplest.: invest in a pair of hearing aids. Hearing aids can be discrete and personalized to your specific hearing needs. Even if you go with larger hearing aids it will still be better than asking people to repeat themselves.

Before the party, get your hearing examined

If possible, get a hearing test before you go to the party. Due to COVID, this may be your first holiday party in a few years, and you don’t want to be surprised by your inability to hear!

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.