Hearing Loss: Sometimes You Just Have to Leave the Party

The music was blaring. People were covering their ears. I had turned my hearing aids off but could still feel the bass reverberating through my body. Why did anybody think this would be a good setting for a reunion of board members — most of them in their 50s and 60s? I wasn’t sure, but most people were just trying to survive — shouting to one another to be heard or attempting to move to a quieter spot for discussion. Some danced rather than make any attempt at conversation or just focused on eating in silence.

I was miserable. I couldn’t effectively converse with anyone — lipreading can only take you so far, and I kept worrying if the constant noise was further damaging my hearing — even with my hearing aids turned off and acting as earplugs in my ears. I didn’t want to be anti-social or miss the “fun” but I knew I had to get out of there.

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But first I needed to get my coat. Because it was so early, the coat check person had left her post and was nowhere to be found. Rather than sneaking out quietly without a fuss, I would now need to track down the organizers, and ask for the coat check to be opened, calling attention to my early exit. It took several minutes, but at least the coat check was on another floor so I was away from the blistering sound.

Coat finally in hand, I made a mad dash for the door, and spent a quiet night in my hotel room recuperating and preparing for the next day. I felt guilty, frustrated and spent, but sometimes, with hearing loss, you have to leave the party early, simply to survive.

Self-Care is Key When You Have Hearing Loss

I don’t like to let my hearing loss hold me back from taking on new challenges or exploring and partaking in all that life has to offer, so when I fled the party, I was initially overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and self-loathing. Why couldn’t I figure out a way to make the situation work? Where were my self-advocacy skills? Why hadn’t I just asked someone to turn down the music?

With distance, I came to realize that I did the right thing. Some situations are not worth the effort that would be required to conquer them — and some just aren’t possible to master. Self-care was more important than socializing at this party, especially since I knew there would be more opportunities to visit with everyone the next day. Even though it felt like defeat at the time, it was actually self-advocacy — the most important kind.

The next day I was well rested and able to enjoy socializing and reuniting with friends and colleagues. That would not have been possible if I had not elected to exit early the night before. Life is a tradeoff, and I have no regrets about the choice I made in this situation. In fact, I encourage everyone with hearing loss to take the time to rest and recuperate when needed. That way you set yourself up to enjoy and thrive in the communication situations that are to come.

Readers, have you ever left a party early because of your hearing loss?

56 thoughts on “Hearing Loss: Sometimes You Just Have to Leave the Party

  1. Yes, I have left many an event early because of the noise. Before I understood my hearing loss, I would try to stick things out (and sometimes you ARE just stuck, like the time I was at a loud family dinner at a restaurant). The cacophany would make me tired, overly emotional, and weepy. Now I am a better advocate for myself and ask how noisy a venue might be, and explain to people I’ll be with that I may just leave if the noise is too bad. Some people still don’t understand how not hearing well can be painful and upsetting, but I don’t feel guilty when I leave.

  2. Even as a normal hearer I also sometimes have to leave the party/restaurant/gathering because the communication is just too hard. It’s not worth the aggravation at times.
    I think the additional challenge with hearing loss is that you usually assume that the problem is you when in reality many people are struggling.

  3. Thank you for reminding me that I can give myself permission to take care of me. For years, I didn’t acknowledge or pay attention to the warning signals of headaches, eye strain, and stomach aches that noise can do to a body. The body wants to survive and will give the person many clues to manage different situations. With my hearing loss and attacks of unwanted/unexpected noise, the acknowledgment of my body’s signals and taking action was a huge relief.

  4. Thanks to you and other advocates that have opened my eyes, I no longer lay guilt on myself for self advocating in uncomfortable situations. For the most part I avoid going to a movie theater because the sound is way too loud and paying money to torture myself just isn’t smart. I’ll wait for the movie to come out on a streaming device and really enjoy it on my level. Trendy restaurants – forget it. I still haven’t figured out a graceful way to tell one part of my family that I make an early escape from events at their home because it’s so hearing unfriendly. It’s beautiful but has all hard surfaces and huge open spaces plus loud people. The older I get more I realize choosing my battles is a good strategy for self preservation.

  5. I’ve asked to have music turned down (or off). What typically happens is that many others wished “somebody” would do that – more than one might imagine! But I can certainly understand “choosing one’s battles”!

  6. Yes many times. My hearing loss is a result of Menieres and I have found that too much noise can bring on an attack.
    My wife has full hearing but along with many people we speak to there seems to be a consensus that noise levels should be controlled particularly when at most social occasions it is more important to be able to hold a conversation than it is to be bombarded by over loud music!
    Not trying to be a killjoy but at many family events or get togethers you want to be able to catch up with people you may not have seen for some time and it is impossible in these circumstances.

  7. I leave almost all events with loud music, live band or DJ, before the end of the event. If I stay too long, my throat actually hurts from trying so hard to talk to people. I’ve been wearing hearing aids for 3 years now. It has been from reading YOUR very helpful articles, that I realized how tiring my hearing loss and lip reading are. Now when I go on reunions and retreats with my favorite women, I always carve out time to be quiet and to be by myself. If any of my friends or acquaintances don’t understand why I’m not participating, I explain “I have a hearing loss and I wear hearing aids. Even with hearing aids it requires a lot of extra concentration to hear everything that’s going on and I find it very tiring.“ In my experience, most people are very understanding, for those who are not compassionate about it, too bad for them.

  8. Very difficult to get family or friends to understand that eating out is NOT a wonderful experience, but an exercise in sitting quietly while catching an occasional word and wondering what the group is talking about. We recently went out to dinner for my daughter’s birthday, her choice of restaurant. No loud music, but tables close together and everyone talking loudly. I have Meniere’s, so it’s not a question of being able to hear as much as what I hear being muddled so that I only understand occasional words, even face to face. By the time dinner was served, I had reached my limit on being able to play the big guessing game to attempt to follow the conversation. I know that there was a good deal of planning for Christmas Eve and Day at our house–but I have no idea what the plans are! Tomorrow is my day in the city, when I ordinarily do all the shopping for an event, but I’m not sure what I should be shopping for. Husband absolutely refuses to fill in what I’ve missed in this sort of situation, his attitude being that I should simply “pay attention.” I’ve given up trying to make him understand–arguments are difficult when I can’t hear everything he says.

  9. Noise, loud crowds, loud background music are hard for me and exhaust me in gatherings. I’ll come in, greet everyone, grab a bite and kindly exit. I. Never stay long.

  10. I’ve definitely left parties early, and probably more often parked myself in a quiet corner or taken a break away from people. This Saturday I was at a holiday party at which the kitchen and dining room were packed, but the living room was not. Being a living room, with upholstered furniture, carpeting and drapes, it was a place I could visit with others. I was never alone–others drifted through to sit down comfortably for awhile– but there was never a crowd and I was able to stay until my husband was ready to go. A year back at a party at my house, I noted that everybody in the living room was a hearing aid or cochlear plant wearer! We enjoyed talking about our party survival tactics.

    There’s not always a spot like this at a big party but I take advantage of it when there is a quieter spot.

  11. I even opting out of a Christmas Eve service, which is beautiful and with beautiful music that is just too loud for where I am in my recovery from my surgery and subsequent one sided hearing loss. Too much noise causes my new head hardware pain and increases my constant tinnitus to shriek/scream level so that I can’t hear in my quiet home. This could last for days.

  12. My lip reading is pretty good so the loudness of music wouldn’t have much affected my communication. However, I would have still left the party early (or any other place that is loud) because I do not want my hearing further damaged/diminished by exposure to loud sound.

  13. Not just bad for you, that degree of loud isn’t good for anyone’s ears. I’ve never understood the need, even in my youth, to have music blaring so loudly that conversation is impossible.

  14. Yes – leaving a party – not going to a party. I live in an apartment bldg. with a lot of elderly people.
    Even going to morning coffee is too loud for me. Going to the Senior Center in West Vancouver is not
    easy because of the noise.- I am thankful to hear other people having trouble and not being understood when they ask politely to have something to say. Sometimes I feel like giving up –

  15. For years, I was that person who went to parties and sweated it out until the end only to feel badly about myself for hearing so poorly. Today, I had one holiday party in the afternoon and one tonight. The first one was in a large room with high ceilings and loud music. I struggled with the acoustics and left early. The second was in a smaller room with a low ceiling. I stayed until the end. We need to be gentle with ourselves and pick and choose what works and what doesn’t. It’s part of being proactive and establishing inner peace.

  16. I have to say as much as I loved the two HLAA conventions I’ve been to, I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone thinks it’s a good idea to have loud music playing at the Meet and Greet party. There is no way you can meet and greet when the music is so loud you can’t hear each other and you have a ballroom room full of people with hearing loss. I had no qualms about leaving after 15 minutes and the other people I was struggling to converse with left, too.
    Today I had an experience that reminds me of yours, Shari. I was at T-mobile trying to pick a phone plan and there was a lot of information I needed to absorb. The salesman had a soft voice and a diffident manner and the other salesperson in the store had a booming voice, plus there was loud rock music playing in the store. I explained to the salesman that I was partially deaf and asked if we could step away to a quieter corner. He seemed to be bemused by this request. At one point he asked for my social security number and in trying to understand why he needed it I realized I had reached my limit. I thanked him for his time and help and said that I wasn’t ready to make a decision and I needed more time. The real reason was that I had reached overload, and I have to say it was empowering to me to realize, sometimes you just have to walk away.

  17. I don’t wear my hearing aids to parties as they do not help in such loud noise. Without them the noise doesn’t affect me much, one small benefit from a severe/profound hearing loss.

    Fortunately we both sign so use that, and I leave it to my husband to decide when the noise has got too much for him.

  18. Happy Holidays to you, your family and this lovely little community you have here. To me, you are all a gift!

  19. I went to a work party last night and left after just 10 minutes. It was excruciatingly loud, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to enjoy myself while there. With SSD, I am very focused on protecting my second ear, and the event just wasn’t worth the potential damage. I also had a similar experience with the coat check person – I could tell right away I wouldn’t be staying long and told her I would be back to pick up my coat very soon! I feel very good today about the decision to leave. Thank you for your post!

  20. Thx for a great article, Shari! I wanted to share an idea that hit me again when I saw this article

    One of the reasons some people hog the conversation–in my experience–is that they are hard of hearing and probably have delayed getting a device (hearing aids!) to mitigate the problem.
    I find that when you are hard of hearing and in a social situation the tendency is to talk constantly!! It’s a way to seem sociable without struggling to hear/understand! So—if you are HOH, hard of hearing, do yourself a favor and get those hearing aids AND avoid talking constantly when socializing with others!
    Happy New Year!

  21. Turn off your hearing aids. Learn sign language. Encourage others to learn sign language.

    Boom! Still can have a good time!

    • Sign language works well for many people, but not for me. I wouldn’t have anyone to use it with, especially at a reunion of hearing people. Thanks for sharing what works for you.

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