The idea that I’m forty-six years old still sort of freaks me out. In my head, my mom is still 46, and I stopped aging somewhere in my early 30s. Neither one of those compute from a biological let alone mathematical standpoint, but I suppose it’s better to be feeling a decade younger than I am than a decade older, right?
good great news is that I’m in better physical shape than I’ve been in decades, if ever. Thanks to weekly hot power yoga, 10,000 steps most days and learning to cook and eat whole instead of processed foods, I reached my goal weight in early summer and am still here in early fall. It’s only when I see myself in the mirror at yoga class that I think I could maybe lose another five or ten pounds, but in general I’m stronger and healthier now than I was in my 30s.
The signs of aging are present, though. When I had my most recent annual (sort of, more like triennial) physical, I had a laundry list of irritants. Since then, I’ve had physio for my knees, cortisone injections into the tattoo that continues to react to the red ink a year later (not so much age as pure bad luck to choose a colour to which I am allergic, I suppose), frozen nitrogen sprayed on the bridge of my nose to arrest a per-cancerous spot developing (oh freckles and endless summer sunburns), and follow up to my mammogram five years ago.
The last on my litany of system checks was a hearing test. I’ve suspected for years that my hearing is sub-par, and that’s only gotten worse in the last year or so. Any sort of foreground noise, like a running faucet or the microwave makes it nearly impossible for me to hear something further away. In places like crowded restaurants, I can only make out the conversations of the people sitting on either side of me or people talking directly to me. I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve bellowed to someone elsewhere in the house “if I can’t see your face, I can’t hear you.” Beloved seemed convinced for years that it was selective hearing, but it has come to the point that I am constantly asking him to interpret: “What did Lucas just call from his bedroom about the pineapple and the escalator?” And I’ve passed through yelling at the TV for mumbling and just resigned myself to hearing only about 2/3 of most TV shows.
My inner hypochondriac was both validated and alarmed to find out that in fact I do have some hearing loss in both ears, mostly around the higher frequencies of the human vocal range. It’s not significant, and I have no difficulty understanding conversations in a normal setting. Add in any background noise, though, or face away from me, or drop to sotto voce and I’ll probably start to lose you.
I learned a lot of interesting factoids as we discussed the results of my test. Vowel sounds are made in the voice box, deep in the throat, and are therefore generally of a lower frequency than consonants, which are generally made at the teeth, lips and with the tip of the tongue, and are therefore higher in frequency. I tend to have trouble distinguishing those rather than difficulty hearing outright, so while it may seem to me like someone is mumbling or failing to enunciate, it’s really a perception problem on my end. (Except with my teenager. He definitely grunts instead of elucidating actual syllables.)
There’s apparently not much that I can do to accommodate my hearing loss, either, which makes a diagnosis both validating and rather pointless. I’m not “yet” (sigh) at a place where a hearing aid would be beneficial, and the audiologist said that they are often more trouble than people anticipate. I remember a relative with a new hearing aid mentioning that suddenly being able to hear background noise that was previously filtered out was more of a trial than something to celebrate. We do have a baseline for future tests, at least, and it was suggested that I go back in two years or sooner if I notice a significant decline. The rather constant buzz of tinnitus is also apparently part and parcel with the hearing loss – he said something about the brain striving to fill in the noise it thinks should be there but can’t detect, which causes the faint ringing. Bodies are weird, yo.
The only part of the exam and diagnosis that really took me aback was when the doctor referred to reduced hearing as a “hidden disability.” A what now? I mean, I guess it’s no worse than needing glasses and not happening to have them on your face – my blur is around my hearing and not my eyesight – but I was still sort of alarmed to have it contextualized that way. My hearing is less than ideal and won’t ever improve. Hmmm. I’ll have to stew on that one for a bit.
Speaking of eyeballs – at least they haven’t let me down. While I’m needing to hold things further and further away to get my eyes to focus properly, I haven’t yet run out of arm. I have, though, suffered the great indignity of handing a medicine bottle off to a nearby youngster recently with the rather cross demand that they read the label for me.
How are you aging, my bloggy peeps? There’s a cohort of us that are in this together. Now that we’re approaching the end of our extended warranty period, how are your internal and external systems holding up?