Group of coworkers at office holiday party despite hearing loss

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

It makes you miserable.

In such a noisy setting, you can’t hear a thing. The punch lines of jokes are missed, you can’t make out conversations and it’s all very disorienting. How can this be fun for anyone? But as the evening goes on, you see that you’re the only person having difficulty.

This probably sounds familiar for people who suffer from hearing loss. Unique stressors can be presented at a holiday office party and for a person who is coping with hearing loss, that can make it a solitary, dark event. But don’t worry! You can get through the next holiday party without a problem with this little survival guide and perhaps you will even have a good time.

Holiday parties can be stressful, here’s why

Even when you don’t have hearing loss, holiday parties are a unique combination of stress and fun (especially if you’re an introvert). For people who have hearing loss or if you struggle to hear with loud background noise, holiday parties provide some unique stressors.

First and foremost is the noise. Think about it in this way: a holiday party is your team’s chance to let loose a bit. In an environment like this, people have the tendency to talk at higher volumes and frequently at the same time. Alcohol can absolutely play a part. But even dry office parties can be a little on the unruly side.

Some interference is generated by this, especially for individuals who have hearing loss. Here are some reasons for this:

  • Office parties include lots of people all talking simultaneously. One of the symptoms of hearing loss is that it’s very difficult to select one voice from overlapping discussions.
  • Lots of background noise, laughing, clanking dishes, music, and other noises. Your brain has a hard time isolating voices from all of this information.
  • When you have hearing loss, indoor parties such as office parties can make it even more difficult to hear because sound can become amplified.

This means anyone with hearing loss will have trouble hearing and following conversations. At first look, that might sound like a minor thing.

So… What is the big deal?

The big deal is the networking and professional side of things. Even though office holiday parties are theoretically social events, they’re also professional events. In any event, attendance is often encouraged, so here we are. Here are a couple of things to consider:

  • You can network: It’s not unusual for individuals to network with colleagues from their own and other departments at these holiday events. Work will be discussed, even though it’s a social event it’s also a networking occasion. This can be a good chance to make connections. But it’s more challenging when you’re dealing with hearing loss and can’t make out what’s going on because of the overpowering noise.
  • You can feel isolated: Most people are hesitant to be the one that says “what?” all the time. This is one reason why hearing loss and isolation often go hand-in-hand. Even if you ask your family and friends to sometimes repeat themselves, it’s different with co-workers. Maybe you’re worried they will think you’re incompetent. Your reputation could be damaged. So maybe you just avoid interaction instead. No one enjoys feeling left out.

You may not even recognize that you have hearing loss, which will make this an even bigger problem. The inability to hear well in noisy environments (like restaurants or office parties) is often one of those first signs of hearing loss.

You may be caught by surprise when you start to have trouble following conversations. And you may be even more surprised that you’re the only one.

Hearing loss causes

So what causes this? How does hearing loss happen? Usually, it’s due to age or noise damage (or age and noise damage). Your ears will normally experience repeated damage from loud noise as you get older. The stereocilia (delicate hairs in your ears that sense vibrations) become compromised.

These little hairs won’t heal and can’t be repaired. And the more stereocilia that kick the bucket, the worse your hearing becomes. Your best bet will be to protect your hearing while you still have it because this kind of hearing loss is typically irreversible.

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

Tips to make your office party more pleasant

Your office party offers some significant opportunities (and fun!), so you’d rather not skip out. So, when you’re in a loud setting, how can you improve your ability to hear? Well, here are a few tips to make your office party go a little smoother:

  • Look at faces: Try to spend time with individuals who have really expressive faces and hand gestures when they talk. You will be capable of filling in information gaps using these contextual signals.
  • Take listening breaks: Every hour, give yourself a 15 minute quiet break. This will help stop you from becoming totally exhausted after trying to listen really hard.
  • Have conversations in quieter locations: Try sitting off to the side or around a corner. In some cases, stationary objects can neutralize a lot of noise and offer you a slightly quiet(er) pocket, and you’ll be able to hear better during loud background noise.
  • Refrain from drinking too many adult beverages: If your thoughts start to get a little fuzzy, it’s a good bet you’ll be unable to communicate effectively. Simply put, avoid the alcohol. It’ll make the whole process a lot easier.
  • Try to read lips: You will get better at this the more you practice. And you will most likely never perfect this. But some gaps can be filled in using this technique.

Naturally, the best possible option is also one of the easiest.: get fitted for a set of hearing aids. These hearing aids can be personalized to your hearing needs, and they can also be subtle. Even if your hearing aids aren’t small, you’d rather people see your hearing aids than your hearing loss.

Before the party, get your hearing examined

If possible, get a hearing test before you go to the party. You may not have been to a party since before COVID and you don’t want hearing loss to catch you off guard.

The content of this blog is the intellectual property of MedPB.com and is reprinted here with permission.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive a personalized free hearing test and hearing loss consultation, call today to set up an appointment.
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