Despite Your Hearing Loss, You Can Get Through That Holiday Office Party

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 thrum of shouted conversations, and the clattering of glasses.

It makes you miserable.

You can’t hear a thing in this loud setting. The punch lines of jokes are getting lost, you can’t hear conversations and it’s all extremely disorienting. How can anybody be having fun at this thing? But then you look around and see that you’re the only person that seems to be having trouble.

For individuals with hearing loss, this likely sounds familiar. The office holiday party can introduce some unique stressors and as a result, what should be a fun affair is nothing more than a dark, solitary event. But have no fear! 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

Holiday parties can be a unique mix of fun and stress, (if you’re introverted this is especially true) even if your hearing is healthy. For those with hearing loss or if you struggle to hear with loud background noise, holiday parties introduce some unique stressors.

Most notable is the noise. To put it into perspective: Holiday parties are your chance to loosen your tie and cut loose. In a setting like this, individuals tend to talk at louder volumes and often at the same time. Could alcohol be a component here? absolutely. But even dry office parties can get to be a little on the boisterous side.

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

  • Office parties include dozens of people all talking over each other. It’s not easy to pick out one voice from many when you have hearing loss.
  • Lots of background noise, laughing, clinking 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 like office parties can make it even harder to hear because sound can become amplified.

This means anybody with hearing loss will have trouble picking up and following conversations. At first glimpse, that may sound like a minor thing.

So… What is the big deal?

The professional and networking aspect of things is where the big deal is. Office holiday parties, though they are surficially social gatherings, a lot of networking occurs and connections are made. In any event, attendance is often encouraged, so here we are. Here are a couple of things to consider:

  • You can network: Holiday parties are the perfect chance to network with employees from other departments or even meet up with co-workers in your own department. It’s a social event, but work will be discussed, so it’s also a networking event. You can use this event to make new connections. But it’s much harder when you have hearing loss and can’t make out what’s happening because of the overwhelming noise.
  • You can feel isolated: Most people are reluctant to be the one that says “what?” all the time. This is one reason why hearing loss and isolation often go hand-in-hand. Asking family and friends to repeat themselves is one thing but colleagues are a different story. They might mistake your hearing loss for incompetence. Your reputation may be compromised. So, instead, you might simply avoid interactions. You’ll feel left out and left behind, and that’s not a fun feeling for anyone!

This can be even more challenging because you might not even recognize you have hearing loss. Typically, one of the first indications of hearing loss is the inability to hear in crowded settings (such as office parties or crowded restaurants).

You may be caught off guard when you begin to have difficulty following conversations. And when you notice you’re the only one, you may be even more concerned.

Causes of hearing loss

So what is the cause of this? How do you develop hearing loss? Most commonly, it’s due to age or noise damage (or age and noise damage). Your ears will typically take repeated injury from loud noise as you get older. The stereocilia (tiny hairs in your ears that sense vibrations) become damaged.

That injury is permanent. And your hearing will keep getting worse the more stereocilia that are damaged. Your best bet will be to protect your hearing while you still have it because this kind of hearing loss is normally irreversible.

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

Tips to make your office party more fun

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:

  • Look at faces: Try to spend time with individuals who have very expressive faces and hand gestures when they talk. The more context clues you can pick up, the more you can fill in any gaps.
  • Take listening breaks: Every hour, give yourself a 15 minute quiet break. This will help prevent you from becoming completely exhausted after having to listen really hard.
  • Have conversations in quieter locations: Try hanging out off to the side or around a corner. Sometimes, stationary objects can block a lot of sound and give you a slightly quiet(er) pocket, and you’ll be able to hear better during loud ambient noise.
  • Try to read lips: This can take a little practice (and good lighting). And it won’t ever be perfect. But reading lips may be able to help you make up for some of the gaps.
  • Refrain from drinking too many cocktails: Communication will be less effective as your thinking gets blurry. In other words, steer clear of the alcohol. It’ll make the whole process a lot smoother.

Of course, the best possible solution is also one of the easiest.: get fitted for a set of hearing aids. Hearing aids can be subtle and tailored to your specific hearing needs. 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 tested

That’s why, if you can, it’s a smart idea to have your hearing tested before the office holiday party. Due to COVID, this might be your first holiday party in several 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.