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. The din of shouted conversations, the clanging of glasses, and the throbbing beat of music are all mixing in your ears.

It makes you miserable.

In such a noisy setting, you can’t hear a thing. You can’t keep up with conversations, you can’t hear the punch line of jokes, and you’re totally disoriented. How can this be enjoyable for anyone? But as the evening goes on, you see that you’re the only one having trouble.

This probably sounds familiar for people who are dealing with hearing loss. The office holiday party can introduce some unique stressors and as a result, what should be a fun occasion is nothing more than a dark, lonely event. But don’t worry! You can make it through the next holiday party without a problem with this little survival guide and perhaps you will even enjoy yourself.

Why holiday parties can be stressful

Holiday parties are usually a unique combination of fun and stress, (if you’re introverted this is especially true) even if your hearing is healthy. For people who have hearing loss or if you struggle to hear with loud background noise, holiday parties provide some unique stressors.

The noise itself is the most prominent. Think about it like this: a holiday party is your team’s opportunity to let loose a little bit. This means they are usually fairly noisy affairs, with everybody talking over each other all at the same time. Alcohol can certainly play a part. But it can also be quite loud at dry office parties.

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

  • Office parties feature tons of people all talking over each other. It’s not easy to isolate one voice from many when you’re dealing with hearing loss.
  • Lots of background noise, laughing, clanking dishes, music, and so on. Your brain doesn’t always get enough information to isolate voices.
  • Indoor events tend to amplify the noise of crowds, meaning an indoor office party is even harder on your ears when you are dealing with hearing loss.

This means that picking up and following conversations will be challenging for individuals with hearing loss. At first glance, that might sound like a minor thing.

So… What is the big deal?

The big deal is the networking and professional side of things. Office holiday parties, though they are supposed to be social events, a lot of networking is done and connections are made. It’s usually highly encouraged to go to these events so we’ll probably be there. This means a couple of things:

  • You can network: Holiday parties are a great opportunity to network with employees from other departments or even meet up with co-workers in your own department. People will still talk shop, even though it’s a social event it’s also a networking occasion. You can use this event to make new connections. But when you have hearing loss the noise can be overwhelming and it can be challenging to talk with anyone.
  • You can feel isolated: Who wants to be that person who’s constantly asking people to repeat what they said? Isolation and hearing loss frequently go hand and hand because of this. Even if you ask your family and friends to sometimes repeat themselves, it’s different with colleagues. They might mistake your hearing loss for incompetence. Your reputation may be damaged. So maybe you just avoid interaction instead. You’ll feel left out and left behind, and that’s not a great feeling for anyone!

You might not even recognize that you have hearing loss, which will make this an even bigger challenge. 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 might be alarmed that you’re having a difficult time following the conversation. And you might be even more surprised that you’re the only one.

Causes of hearing loss

So how does this happen? How does hearing loss happen? Most commonly, it’s the result of age or noise damage (or age and noise damage). Your ears will normally take repeated injury from loud noise as you get older. The fragile hairs in your ear that sense vibrations (called stereocilia) 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 safeguard your hearing while you still have it because this type of hearing loss is normally irreversible.

Knowing all that, there are ways you can make your holiday office party a bit less unpleasant!

Tips to make your office party more fun

Your office party presents some considerable opportunities (and fun!), so you really want to go. So, you’re thinking: how can I improve my hearing in a noisy setting? Well, here are some tips to make your office party go a little smoother:

  • Try to read lips: You will improve the more you practice. And it will never be perfect. But some gaps can be filled in with this technique.
  • Take listening breaks: Take a 15 minute quiet break every hour. In this way, you can prevent yourself from becoming completely exhausted from struggling to hear what’s going on.
  • Look at faces: And maybe even spend some time with individuals who have really expressive faces or hand gestures. You will be capable of filling in information gaps using these contextual clues.
  • Keep the alcohol drinking to a minimum: If your thinking starts to get a little fuzzy, it’s a good bet you’ll be unable to communicate effectively. In other words, avoid the alcohol. It’ll make the whole process a lot smoother.
  • Find a less noisy place to talk with people: Possibly try sitting on a couch or around a corner. When the ambient noise gets too loud, sitting behind stationary objects can provide little pockets that are slightly quieter.

Of course, there’s an even more ideal solution: get yourself a pair of hearing aids. Hearing aids can be subtle and customized 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.

Get your hearing tested before the party

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