You know you’re getting old when your health issues have that distinctly aged, slightly decrepit feel to them.

IMG_3032Today I went to see my doctor because recently the hearing in my left ear has been somewhat muffled.  The doctor looked in my right ear with that ear examination gizmo, pronounced everything A-Okay, then took a look in my left ear and said “Whoa!”  When your doctor says “Whoa!” it’s never a good sign.  The doctor then explained that there was so much impacted wax in my left ear that she couldn’t see the ear drum.  The nurse came in, irrigated my left ear with some kind of solution, and withdrew a hard, disgusting black bullet of ear wax.  Now my inner ear is just full of the solution, and we’ll have to wait until it evaporates.

Why do we have ear wax? I asked the doctor, and she said it serves the same function as snot — it’s supposed to trap bacteria, germs, and other bad things that are trying to invade your body through every open orifice and then fall away.  That’s why the defenders are sticky.  Sometimes, though . . . and typically in the (ahem) older population . . . the ear wax gets impacted, and it interferes with ear functioning rather than helping it.  How can you try to avoid it?  Her advice is to not clean your ears beyond using a washcloth to swab down the outer ear.  Anything inserted into the ear itself might just shove the wax back, leading to waxy build-up and impaired hearing.

Fortunately, the doctor didn’t offer me an ear horn.  I thought about my impacted ear wax problem and other likely age-related ailments as I buttoned the top button on my shirt, hitched my trousers up to nipple height, and hurried off to the Early Bird special at the MCL Cafeteria.

The Wind Chill Factor

This morning in New Albany the temperature is 10 degrees Fahrenheit, coupled with a 21 mph wind.  That means we’ve got a wind chill factor of -15 degrees, and a severe weather alert on the iPhone weather app.

Those are just numbers, however.  People who live in warmer climates may wonder:  what does it mean when the wind chill factor is 15 below zero?

It means that when you walk outside, your eyes water from the intense cold and the tears freeze to your cheeks.

It means that you walk with your head angled downward, hoping that the top of your head will cut into the breeze like the prow of a ship.

It means that everything in your nose freezes, leaving your nostrils clogged with sharp little bricks and nuggets, while at the same time your sinuses drain and fill your mouth with a sludgy, slimy, ever-replenishing reservoir of phlegm.

It means that every inch of exposed skin feels scoured and brittle and inflamed and raw, all at the same time.

It means that your neighbors should be especially appreciative of your resolve to pick up dog poop, because when you remove your glove to do the dirty deed you are ensuring that the hand will remain stiff with cold until you get back inside.

It’s not a pretty picture.  But it also means that, when you finally do escape the cold, and feel the tingle in your cheeks and ears as the warmth returns, you are grateful for a working furnace, and that hot cup of freshly brewed coffee tastes awfully good.