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I am a special education teacher and this happens to me all the time! Not with the kids; I only work with small groups in a separate room. It does happen in both casual and formal settings. When it’s just a group of people and too many people are talking I either wait it out or step back several feet (sometimes drawing 1 or 2 people with whom I am speaking) with me until things quiet down. When it happens in a more formal setting I tend to block one ear and look either straight ahead or down. For some reason, this helps me to deal with it until things quiet down.
Like some of the others, I can’t go to clubs. However, I can go to Red Sox games! Perhaps that’s because almost all of the noise/talking is focused on the same thing? My friends are also helpful. For example, I like theater and they usually know if I will be able to tolerate certain shows. I’ve been warned that I won’t have fun at Blue Man Group (bummer!) or any of the Celtic dance shows (double bummer, I’m very Irish-American!!), and, for some things, I can enjoy myself if I wear earplugs. For example, I can’t tolerate all of the noise in the school gym, but I do okay if I wear earplugs.
So, my takeaway, reduce the noise by positioning yourself or wearing earplugs. In professional settings when you can’t escape, block one ear and reduce visual input as well. And, let your relatives and friends “prescreen” situations for you and take their advice.
I hope this helps.