Audiology & Hearing Care of SWFL - Bonita Springs, FL

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. You can feel the pumping music, the hum of shouted conversations, and the clattering of glasses.

It makes you miserable.

In such a loud setting, you can’t hear anything. You can’t keep up with conversations, you can’t hear the punch line of any joke, and you’re totally disoriented. How can this be enjoyable for anyone? But then you look around and see that you’re the only person that seems to be having trouble.

For people with hearing loss, this most likely sounds familiar. The office holiday party can present some unique stressors and as a result, what should be a fun occasion is nothing more than a dark, solitary event. But don’t worry! You can make it through the next holiday party without difficulty with this little survival guide and perhaps you will even enjoy yourself.

Holiday parties can be stressful, here’s why

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

Most notable is the noise. Think about it in this way: a holiday party is your team’s opportunity to let loose a little. In a setting like this, people have the tendency to talk at louder volumes and frequently all at once. Could alcohol be a factor here? absolutely. But it can also be really loud at dry office parties.

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

  • There are so many people talking simultaneously. One of the symptoms of hearing loss is that it’s very difficult to select one voice among overlapping discussions.
  • Talking, music, clinking dishes, laughing, all in the background. Your brain can’t always get enough information to isolate voices.
  • Indoor gatherings tend to boost the noise of crowds, meaning an indoor office party is even tougher on your ears when you are dealing with hearing loss.

This means anyone with hearing loss will have difficulty hearing and following conversations. 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. Although office holiday parties are social events in theory, they’re also professional events. It’s usually highly encouraged to attend these events so we’ll probably be there. This means a couple of things:

  • You can network: It isn’t uncommon for individuals to network with colleagues from their own and other departments at these holiday events. It’s a social event, but people will still talk shop, so it’s also a networking event. This can be a good chance 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: Most individuals are reluctant to be the one that says “what?” constantly. Isolation and hearing loss often go hand and hand for this reason. Asking friends and family to repeat themselves is one thing but co-workers are a different story. Maybe you’re worried they will think you’re incompetent. And that can harm your work reputation. So maybe you simply avoid interaction instead. No one enjoys feeling left out.

This can be even more troublesome because you may not even know you have hearing loss. The inability to hear clearly in noisy environments (like restaurants or office parties) is often one of those first indications of hearing loss.

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

Causes of hearing loss

So what is the cause of this? How does hearing loss happen? Age and, or noise damage are the most prevalent causes. Your ears will typically take repeated damage from loud noise as you age. The tiny hairs in your ear that sense vibrations (called stereocilia) become damaged.

These tiny hairs never heal and can’t be healed. And the more stereocilia that kick the bucket, the worse your hearing becomes. In most circumstances, hearing loss like this is irreversible (so you’re better off safeguarding your hearing before the injury occurs).

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

How to enjoy this year’s office party

You don’t want to miss out on the fun and opportunities that are part of that office holiday party. So, you’re thinking: how can I hear better in a noisy environment? 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 you will probably never perfect this. But some gaps can be filled in with this technique.
  • Look at faces: And possibly even spend some time with people who have very expressive faces or hand gestures. The more context clues you can pick up, the more you can fill in any gaps.
  • Refrain from drinking too many cocktails: Communication is less successful as your thinking gets fuzzy. Simply put, 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.
  • Take listening breaks: Every hour, take a 15 minute quiet break. By doing this, you can avoid becoming totally exhausted from struggling to hear what’s going on.

Of course, there’s an even more ideal option: get yourself 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 what they said.

Get your hearing assessed before the party

That’s why, if you can, it’s a good idea to have your hearing assessed before the office holiday party. Because of 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!

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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.