This might seem a little premature, but where I work, we had our Christmas lunch booked weeks ago! Anyway, it’s that time of year again isn’t it? The start of Christmas parties and work ‘dos’.
I have to admit that I haven’t been to an evening Christmas party for several years. It’s not that I don’t like a party, it’s just that it can prove impossible to hold a conversation and very easy to end up feeling deflated and defeated by the end of the night.
Most of the places that cater for office parties tend to be big open spaces, with large groups of people who have similar plans for enjoying themselves and partying all night. The venues comprise lots of wooden surfaces, laminate floors and no soft furnishings such as tablecloths, carpets or curtains to soak up the sound. As a result, the noise people generate, gets louder and louder until it can become overwhelming, even for people with good hearing. I used to find that I could manage for a while but as the evening wore on, the food was cleared away, and the music turned up even louder, I was unable to follow what was going on and ended up feeling more and more isolated.
I remember sitting in the car on the way home one night, trying to think through what my overwhelming feeling was about such events; it was exhaustion. Sitting for three to four hours, concentrating really hard on picking up the threads of a conversation can leave you feeling utterly exhausted. In the end, I would sometimes find it easier to just sit back, smile inanely as people chatted around me and nod once in a while to pretend that I was keeping up with the conversation.
Its the kind of situation that drives people who are hard of hearing into social isolation but despite knowing that, it’s still difficult to avoid.
That’s why a recent blog by @sharieberts caught my attention. She had set out Ten Tips for Tackling Thanksgiving Dinners, offering some good advice for people with hearing loss on how best to manage at dinner parties. I spotted a number of parallels that could be drawn with bigger parties and in particular I liked the advice to:
- Find a good place to sit. Sitting in the middle of the table is definitely a good tip. If you do that, then you have a choice of conversing with someone close by either side or opposite you. For me, because I have poorer hearing in my left ear, I also think about who is going to sit on my left hand side, and try to ensure its someone that I know very well. If you’ve got a ‘worst’ side, get your best mate from work to sit on that side as they may be in a better position to accommodate your poorer hearing, and could also help out if you start to struggle with hearing conversation around the table.
- Move around the table to ensure you can get physically closer to people to speak to. This could also mean moving to areas that are better lit. Even if you don’t lipread, being able to see someones face can make all the difference in being able to hold a conversation with them.
- Take ‘breaks’ to give your eyes and ears rest periods. You can also simply try moving away from noisy, busy areas such as those near the dance floor to a quiet bar area to have one-to-one conversations. You’ll find that even those without hearing loss, appreciate the rest from the noise.
- Give visual clues to people that you can’t hear, such as cupping your ear with your hand.
I’d also add two pieces of very basic advice. Firstly, try to get yourself on the ‘Xmas do’ planning group at your place of work. That way, you can offer suggestions for venues and types of parties which are going to be less noisy and easier to hear in. You could suggest going for a meal, rather than a nightclub, or perhaps having a lunch time meal rather than an evening one. Secondly, make sure you take a spare set of hearing aid batteries (if you wear hearing aids). I can’t tell you the number of potentially embarrassing situations I’ve managed to avoid by having another set to hand when my hearing aid batteries have died on me. Don’t make the mistake of not packing a spare pair on your night out.
Wherever you end up, I hope you have some good xmas celebrations, and don’t forget to share any advice you might have on managing those ‘xmas dos’.
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