Yesterday I ran across a discouraging article. It pointed out that whereas most parts of the human body have stopped growing when an individual reaches adulthood, there are two uniform exceptions to that rule: your ears and your nose.
(FYI, apparently fat cells around the midsection are not considered a separate “body part.”)
The article explains that in most parts of the human body, growth stops because cells stop dividing — although the cells themselves can expand or shrink. The ears and nose are different from other body parts because they are soft tissue encased in cartilage, and the soft tissue cells keep growing, and growing, and growing — forever. And when I call up the mental images of the two of my grandparents who lived well into their 90s, I realize with a start that they did end up with pretty big schnozzollas, now that I really think about it.
This is discouraging news, because I don’t know of anyone who desperately desires to have a bigger nose or more prominent ears. The nose is already one of the dominant features of the face. It’s not exactly an attractive, expressive feature, either. If a facial feature has to continue to grow, why couldn’t it be the eyes?
And, if like me, you already have a considerable, if noble, nose, and ears that look like the twin handles of a Roman vase, you wonder just how big the darned things might get. I’m afraid I’m ultimately headed to Jimmy Durante territory.
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.
During an otherwise immensely enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday, the hang-over-the-ear earphones that I normally use with my iPod were borrowed and now are nowhere to be found. So, I am relegated to using the “earbuds” that come as standard equipment with the iPod — and thus I feel both frustration and shame.
I experience frustration, because the Apple ear buds simply will not stay in my ears. They may look cool and sleek, but with the slightest head movement or gentlest jostling, the earbuds will plop softly out of my ears. The only way I can keep them in on the morning walk is to put on a ski cap that tightly binds them to my ears and then walk with head held stiffly, like I’m wearing an invisible neck brace. It’s not a comfortable start to the day.
I feel shame, too, because I know that Apple makes only excellent, well-engineered devices. Steve Jobs himself must have given these earbuds a thumbs-up. Therefore, my inability to keep them in my ears must mean there is something defective about either the structure of my ears or my understanding of how to use the earbuds. Perhaps the little flap on the forward part of my exterior ear — called the tragus, for those who haven’t memorized Gray’s anatomy — is embarrassingly undersized. Maybe Steve Jobs’ ears had tragi the size of catcher’s mitts, ready to hold the earbuds snugly inside. Or perhaps I’m using the devices improperly. Maybe they go in upside down, or backwards — or maybe they aren’t intended for the ears at all, but were designed by Apple to be inserted into the nostrils and reach the inner ear through a more indirect route?
It’s time to help our retailers have a good holiday season and buy some new earphones.