Second Wind: What? I can’t hear you, dear |

Second Wind: What? I can’t hear you, dear

Eyes of an eagle, ears of a bat – is that you? Can you hear the waitperson tell you the daily specials? How about seeing the fine print on your prescription label? Is it Zocor or Zoloft? Big difference.

So do your senses do what they used-to-could? No? Then welcome to the club.

When the senses let you down

Well, what can you do about problems with eyesight or hearing? There are three classic choices: First, denial. Second: Feeling sorry for yourself. Third, recognizing reality and doing something about it.

Denial is easy to fall into – I think of it as the feather bed of choices – but denial is a lousy option here. It leads older people with diminished vision to think they can still drive well on a stormy night. Hitting the guard rail tells a different story. And, as for feeling sorry for yourself, it is not a life strategy, but an emotional swamp where the spirit gets stuck in the mud.

Which leaves one good option: Recognizing reality and doing something about it. If your roof leaks, you fix it. If your body begins to let you down, you take it in to the body shop – I mean doctor.

Eyes: Older people may let eye exams go because Medicare doesn’t cover basic vision care and because new frames and lenses can cost twice as much as a new desktop computer. But there are ways to get your vision improved without overheating your credit card. If you use your good old frames and/or go to a discount vision store, you can cut costs in half.

Note: If the vision care person at the eyeglass place suggests a visit to a physician specializing in eye diseases, go. If you detect any unusual eye problems on your own, do the same.

And as for cataracts – the veil that falls over many an older eye – if your doc diagnoses them, find the best cataract surgeon in your area. Then go forth, get it done and stop squirming about having someone messing in your eye. First, cataract removal doesn’t hurt, and second, the horse dose of Valium administered by the clinic staff would keep a bronco calm.

And what a difference that quick little surgery can make. For pre-op me, it was as if the world had been covered with yellow varnish, like an Old Masters painting. Cataract surgery removed the varnish and while my doc was suited up and ready for bear, he also nipped and tucked my near-sightedness out of existence. Now I don’t need glasses to see you across a crowded room.

Find more info about the vision problems of age – think glaucoma, detached retinas and macular degeneration – at But take comfort. Many vision problems can be prevented, lessened or fixed. Testimonial: I had a detached retina – one-eyed pirate for a day – until a surgeon glued it nicely back in place.

Ears: I’m told I could hear a mouse burp in the next county, so I have nothing to offer of a first hand nature when it comes to improving one’s hearing. But, listening to the experience of many others, I think it seems harder to correct hearing than to correct eye difficulties. Hearing aids work for some and not for others. They can be physically annoying and are returned or abandoned in a drawer.

Since technology changes all the time, it’s smart to stay alert for new forms of hearing devices. But the first step here is to have your doc check your ears before you go forth on your own to seek out a hearing aid.

Also, according to the Federal Trade Commission, there is fraud in the area of hearing aids and you don’t want to get caught in the low-life part of the industry. The FTC Web site has the consumer questions you should ask – for instance about refundable fees when the aids don’t work. For more info, Google – FTC hearing aids.

The National Institutes of Health also have a comprehensive Web site about the different kinds of hearing aids. Google – NIH hearing aids.

So get those baby blues or baby browns looked at and while you are on a self-improvement tear, get your hearing checked. But don’t start with a diagnosis from your mate because he or she will tell you that you don’t hear a darned thing – never have, never will.


The author of four non-fiction books, gerontologist Mel Walsh has a new book of advice for the 50+ woman coming out in March – “Hot Granny,” published by Chronicle Books. Write Mel at or at 464 Sutton Way, Grass Valley, CA 95945. More info at

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