Survive that Office Holiday Party In Spite of Your Hearing Loss

Group of coworkers at office holiday party despite hearing loss

You’re bombarded by noise as soon as you get to the yearly company holiday party. The din of shouted conversations, the clanging of glasses, and the throbbing beat of music are all mixing in your ears.

You’re not enjoying it at all.

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 really disorienting. How can anybody be enjoying this thing? But then you look around and notice that you’re the only person that seems to be having trouble.

This most likely sounds familiar for people who are dealing with hearing loss. Distinct stressors can be introduced at a holiday office party and for someone who is coping with hearing loss, that can make it a lonely, dark event. But have no fear! You can make it through the next holiday party without a problem with this little survival guide and maybe you will even have a good time.

Why holiday parties can be stressful

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

First and foremost is the noise. To put it into perspective: Holiday parties are your chance to loosen your tie and cut loose. As a result, they are usually rather noisy affairs, with everyone talking over each other all at the same time. Could alcohol be a component here? Yes, yes it can. But it can also be really loud at dry office parties.

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

  • There are so many people talking simultaneously. One of the symptoms of hearing loss is that it’s very hard to pick out one voice among overlapping discussions.
  • Lots of background noise, laughing, clinking dishes, music, and other noises. Your brain doesn’t always get enough information to pick out voices.
  • When you have hearing loss, indoor parties such as office parties can make it even harder to hear because sound can become amplified.

This means that picking up and following conversations will be challenging for people who have hearing loss. At first glance, that might sound like a small thing.

So… What is the big deal?

The big deal is in the networking and professional aspect of things. Office holiday parties, though they are surficially social gatherings, 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 an ideal 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 people will still talk shop, so it’s also a networking event. This can be a fantastic occasion to make connections. But when you’re dealing with hearing loss the noise can be overpowering and it can be 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 occasionally repeat themselves, it’s not the same with colleagues. Maybe you’re worried they will think you’re not competent. And that can damage your work reputation. So, instead, you might simply avoid interactions. No one enjoys feeling left out.

You might not even realize 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 surprised that you’re having a hard time following the conversation. And when you observe you’re the only one, you might be even more alarmed.

Causes of hearing loss

So what is the cause of this? How does hearing loss develop? Age and, or noise damage are the most common causes. Your ears will usually experience repeated injury from loud noise as you get older. The stereocilia (delicate hairs in your ears that sense vibrations) become damaged.

That damage is permanent. 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 type of hearing loss is usually permanent.

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

Tips to make your office party more enjoyable

Your office party presents some considerable 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 better:

  • Refrain from drinking too many cocktails: Communication will be less successful as your thinking gets blurry. In other words, avoid the alcohol. It’ll make the whole process a lot easier.
  • Take listening breaks: Take a 15 minute quiet break each hour. By doing this, you can prevent yourself from becoming totally exhausted from straining to hear what’s going on.
  • Try to read lips: You will improve the more you practice. And it won’t ever be perfect. But reading lips might be able to help you make up for some of the gaps.
  • Find a less noisy place to have those conversations: Try hanging out off to the side or around a corner. When the ambient noise gets too loud, sitting behind stationary objects can provide little pockets that are slightly less loud.
  • Look at faces: And maybe even spend some time hanging around individuals who have very expressive faces or hand gestures. The more context clues you can get, the more you can make up for any gaps.

Naturally, the best possible option is also one of the simplest.: get fitted for a pair of hearing aids. Hearing aids can be subtle and personalized to your specific hearing needs. Even if your hearing aids aren’t small, you’d rather people notice your hearing aids than your hearing loss.

Before the party, get your hearing examined

If possible, take a hearing test before you go to the party. Because of COVID, this may be your first holiday party in several years, and you don’t want to be surprised by your hearing issues!

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.


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