Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hear Young: No Matter What Your Age!

A long time ago, when I was inducted into the U.S. Navy, I was given a hearing test. The Doctor said, “I have good news and bad news. Your low frequencies are OK, but you have problems with your high frequencies.” Yet, I could hear well enough to take orders, so he passed me.

I have spent the rest of my life “passing”, until recently as aging began to take its toll. I now find that my “OK low frequencies” are no longer enough to follow conversations in a crowded room, to hide the frustration of not understanding what my wife or best friend is talking about, of going to a movie or a play and missing half of the dialogue.

As a “Senior Citizen”, I began to feel growing social isolation; an inability to function in noisy, hectic environments which won’t allow me to hear and correctly respond to the world around me. Finally, I have to admit that my vanity doesn’t want me to “look old”, to wear those big, cumbersome hearing aids that so many of the “old folks” seem to be wearing. Of course, I am growing old, but I don’t want to advertise the fact to the world!

Finally, a much younger friend who has a hearing disability since childhood, tells me about her new “hearing glasses”. She says that she has finally made peace with wearing hearing aids when he realized that almost everybody wears eye glasses in order to correct visual deficiencies or as protection from the sun’s glare. She then realized that hearing disabilities are the same. Like eye glasses, hearing aids are just another way for each of us to more fully and naturally experience the world.

“And they can be a fashion statement as well,” she exclaims, pulling aside her hair. At first, I don’t even see the hearing aid. Then I notice an almost invisible clear plastic tube nestled inside her ear, and hidden behind the top of her ear, a tiny flesh-colored capsule. In that tiny space, less than three peas laid end to end, is a sophisticated computer powered by a battery half the size of a pea. This allows her to experience the world around her in all the wonderful frequencies of life, with four instant-touch programs to hear normal conversations, or intimate conversations in a crowd, or all the beauty of music, even a noise-stopping silence program when he wants to quiet the sound around her.

Was I convinced? Not until I shopped around for the perfect, almost invisible “ear glasses” which exactly fit my own particular needs. And now, for the first time in my long life, I can hear the birds sing outside my window, I can hear Mozart’s music like I never have heard it before, I can fully enjoy and understand all the dialogue in a movie or play, and I don’t have to exclaim “What did you say?” to my wife and best friends when we’re having a conversation.

You can let your days come alive, too. Life is beautiful, when you can see it clearly, and hear all the music and joy it offers.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Having Problems Seeing?

As we age, our view of the world often grows a little fuzzy. We often try to ignore the problem by holding the newspaper closer or farther away at the breakfast table, or maybe just scan the headlines. We may have trouble identifying friends or neighbors from a distance. Even more dangerous, we may not see stop signs or on-coming traffic when driving or walking.

Yet, just because we’re growing older doesn’t mean we can’t live a full life for many years more by seeing, hearing, feeling and thinking the way we used to. Let’s prepare now, and seek professional advice, before something happens that will force us to realize that we aren’t seeing the way we so confidently did five, ten and twenty years ago.

In future essays, I will touch on our other life-giving senses and how we can “hear young”, “feel young”, and “think young” no matter what our age. But first let’s examine how to protect our eyes and improve our ability to see our world the way we used to.

The good people at EyeCare America have provided five healthy hints for the aging eye, and since August was Save Your Sight Month, it's especially important for we who are over 65 years old. Even if you’re not, take this advise now to protect your eyes in the future:

• Always wear protective goggles when working with machinery and while engaging in athletic activities.

• Find out your family history of eye disease. Having a family member with an eye disease such as glaucoma can greatly increase your chance of getting the disease. So talk to your eye doctor about how you can prevent or prepare for any genetic possibilities.

• Vitamin A is great for your eyes and will help you maintain healthy vision. Foods rich in vitamin A include carrots, yams and dark, leafy greens. Take supplements if you can’t get enough vegetables.

• Protect your eyes from the sun. Overexposure to the sun's rays can lead to cataracts. Your sunglasses should have UVA and UVB protection. And wear a brimmed had when you’re out in the sun.

• If you or a friend is 65 or older, call EyeCare America's Seniors EyeCare Program to see if you qualify for a free eye exam — the number is 800-222-3937 and operates all day, every day, year-round!

EyeCare America helps people of any age who live in medically underserved communities (and people who might be at risk for eye disease) with free eye exams and eye health information, so give EyeCare America a call today!

And from this day forward, examine how you are squinting or missing the clarity in your vision you used to have. With diet, a change in your eyeglasses prescription, more careful attention in your driving habits and reading habits, you can keep enjoying the wonderful visual experiences around you.

Remember, create the correct intentions to preserve your precious senses, and pay constant attention to the solutions to your visual problems, and you will enjoy every day much, much more!