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As your hearing declines, it will be the little things that grab your attention — tiny problems that interfere with your quality of life. One or more of these issues may eventually be what gets you to the ear doctor, but, until then, how can you overcome these typical problems? If you’re one of the millions of people in the U.S. that have gradual hearing loss, here are five things that can change your life and what you can do about it.

1. Ringing in the Ears

That ringing you think you hear is tinnitus, an annoying side effect of hearing loss and something that can definitely change your life. This phantom sound is a symptom of hearing decline, especially when related to age. Not everyone hears a bell, though, for some people tinnitus is a:

  • Buzzing
  • Roaring
  • Clicking
  • Hissing

Regardless of the sound you hear, it can get interfere with your ability to focus.

A good place to get started is by figuring out what irritants might trigger the sound such as caffeine. Keep a record what you do right before the noise starts like listening to music using an earbud or eating a meal with a lot of salt. Over time, you will identify your personal tinnitus triggers and learn to avoid them.

You may also need to find ways to cover this noise up, especially at night when you are trying to fall asleep. Something as simple as a fan running in the room can mask the sound of tinnitus and give you some relief.

2. Problems Following Conversation

Gradual hearing loss can mean you start noticing people mumble more or certain words are never clear. Hearing aids will go a long way towards eliminating all these issues. If you are not quite ready to go down that road, there are a few tricks you might try.

Put yourself in the best position to hear. Face the person you are talking to and look at them as they speak. The combination of what you hear and what you see might be enough to clarify things.

Go out of your way to have conversations in quiet areas, too. Background noise will make it harder to understand speech. Step away from fans and turn off the TV, for instance.

Ask for clarification, as well. If you are having problems hearing, it’s probably not a secret, so just put it out there. Telling someone you are talking to that you have a hearing challenge is enough to get them to speak clearly and turn up the volume a bit.

3. Irritability

Fighting to hear every word is exhausting and that fatigue catches up with you. Looking for ways to eliminate that extra stress such as wearing hearing aids can reduce your frustration, but so will learning different ways to relax. Find a hobby that refocuses your mind, something like learning to paint or crochet. Practice extreme breathing exercises, too. They will teach you the art of calming yourself when you feel overcome with stress.

One of the best ways to handle this type of chaos, though, is to exercise daily. Working out forces your body to release hormones that help calm you and make everything seem less stressful.

4. Social Withdrawal

Loss of hearing will leave you feeling left out of the loop and maybe different than everyone else in some way — like you can’t understand even the simplest of things anymore. That’s will make anyone want to turn down a chance to get out with friends. As a result, you may end up spending more time alone and socially isolated.

The way to get back your life is to accept what is happening to you. Once you take that step, you can find ways to fight the desire to avoid time with family and friends. When you do head out for the night, tell the people you are with about your struggle. You might find that instead of being alone, you end up with a support system that can help.

5. Denial

Age-related hearing loss is gradual, so it’s easy to deny. People tend to find other reasons for the problem like the volume on the TV isn’t working as well as it used to or that one friend was always a mumbler. Pay attention to the patterns that are forming and listen to what the people in your life are telling you. Often, they are the first to realize someone they care about has hearing loss.

Of course, you have the ability to overcome most of these problems at one time by getting an ear exam, a proper diagnosis and, maybe, hearing aids. If even one of these scenarios sounds familiar, then it’s time to for a professional hearing test.

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