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You may need your ears examined. Even a slight hearing loss can make it difficult to filter out background noise, says Maurice Mendel, PhD, the director of audiology and speech-language pathology at the University of Memphis. Plus, it’s easy to become distracted in restaurants and bars, and miss visual cues that would otherwise help you piece together what a person is saying. So make an appointment with a certified audiologist, and in the meantime, be strategic about where you sit. “Keep your back to the wall and your conversation partner in front of you,” says Susan Gordon-Hickey, PhD, an audiologist at the University of South Alabama. “This eliminates any noise that’s coming from behind you and causes your partner to be the closest noise source to you.”