Picture of person standing on the mountain

When your hearing starts to decline, it’s the little things that stand out in your mind — small issues that change in your life and grab your attention. Chances are it’s the change that will eventually get you to the ear doctor, but, until then, how can you overcome these very familiar hearing-related problems? If you’re one of the millions of people in the United States that is experiencing some kind of hearing loss, consider five things you might notice and what you can do about them.

1. Tinnitus

That sound you imagine you are hearing is really just an annoying side effect of your hearing change — one that can grate on your nerves. Tinnitus is a flag that usually indicates some hearing decline, especially as a person gets older. Not everyone hears ringing, though, for some people it’s a:

  • Buzzing
  • Roaring
  • Clicking
  • Hissing

Regardless of what sound you think you hear, it will take it’s toll eventually.

Begin by learning to recognize things that can sometimes trigger tinnitus such as drinking coffee or soda. Keep a log and record what you do right before the noise starts such as using your headphone to listen to some tunes or putting extra salt on your food. Over time, you will identify your personal tinnitus triggers and be able to 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 can 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 necessary. 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

Struggling to hear is exhausting and it can take its toll on you. Finding ways to ease the hearing stress like getting hearing aids will eliminate some of that frustration, but you also need to learn to relax. Take up a hobby that distracts your mind, perhaps like painting or knitting. Deep breathing exercises can teach you the art of calming down with you start to feel overwhelmed, too.

One of the most effective ways to handle this type of irritation, though, is to exercise regularly. Working out triggers the release of hormones that naturally calm you and make everything feel better.

4. Social Withdrawal

Hearing loss can make you feel left out of the conversation and leave you feeling abnormal or broken in some way — like you can’t understand even the simplest of things anymore. That’s enough to get anyone to turn down those invitations to dinner. You might find yourself spending more and more time alone as a result.

The first step to getting back to your life is accepting that you have a problem with your hearing. Once you understand why you feel the way you do, you can find ways to squash that desire to avoid social situations. When you do go out, just be honest about what is happening to you. You might find that instead of being alone, you end up with a solid support system that keeps you from withdrawing.

5. Denial

Age-related hearing loss is usually slow, so it’s easy to deny. Individuals often blame other things like the TV is getting old or that one friend never did speak very clear. Watch for patterns in your thinking and listen to what your friends and family are telling you. It’s not uncommon for the family to be the first to notice someone they love has hearing loss.

Don’t forget, too, you can eliminate most of these problems in one swoop just 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.