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