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As your hearing starts to decline, it’s the little things that you’ll notice first — small problems that tend to interfere with your life. One or more of these symptoms may actually be what gets you to the ear doctor, but, in the meantime, how can you overcome these common issues? If you’re one of the millions of people in this country experiencing gradual hearing loss, consider five ways it can affect your life and what you can do about it.

1. Ringing in the Ears

That ringing you think you hear is actually an irritating side effect of hearing loss — one that can definitely change your life. Tinnitus is a symptom of hearing decline, especially when it’s age-related. Not everyone hears ringing, though, for some people tinnitus is a:

  • Buzzing
  • Roaring
  • Clicking
  • Hissing

No matter what sound you hear, it can get in the way of just trying to think clearly.

Start by learning to recognize irritants that might trigger these phantom noises such as caffeine. Keep a journal to record what you were doing right before the noise started like listening to music using headphones or eating a meal with a lot of salt. One by one, you will identify your personal tinnitus triggers and eliminate 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 along 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 when possible. 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 to 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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