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 concerns? If you're one of the millions of people in the U.S. that have a 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:
Regardless of the sound you hear, it can get interfere with your ability to focus. A good place to get start 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 may mean you notice that people mumble more often than they used to or that keywords drop off unexpectedly. Hearing assistance devices like hearing aids help eliminate this problem. If you are not able to get them yet, though, there are a few tricks you might try. Make sure you are in the best position to hear clearly during your conversation. For example, always turn to face the person you are talking to and watch closely as they speak. The combination of what you hear and what you see might be enough to help you understand what is said. Try to have conversations in quiet areas, too. The noise around you can make it more difficult to understand what people say. Step away from fans and turn off the TV, for instance. Ask for clarification, too. If you are having problems hearing, it's probably not a secret, so just let the people you talk to know. 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.
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 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 thinking your 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.
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.