09 December 2016

Hearing Versus Understanding

Welcome back. Guess what. I’ve started receiving advertisements in the mail for hearing aids. The vendors probably figure he’s old, he must need hearing aids. I wonder who told them I was old.

All of the direct mailing about hearing aids used to be addressed to my father-in-law. We share the same address. He, like several of his buddies, already has hearing aids, though he prefers to go unaided. For an interim step, some vendors added my name to his address label.

Full-page newspaper
ad for hearing aids.
While I’m immensely gratified that the vendors now think enough of me to send me my very own direct mailing for recycling, if I were in the market for hearing aids, I could just check out the ads in the local newspaper. Hearing aids or audiologists are frequently advertised, and the ads are big in case your vision has gone the way of your hearing.

Hearing Loss with Age
I can’t fault the vendors for linking age to hearing loss. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, hearing loss affects about one third of U.S. adults age 65 to 74 and nearly half of those over 75.

The usual cause is age-related changes in the inner ear, or less commonly, changes in either the middle ear or the nerve pathways from ear to brain. Certain medical conditions or meds themselves might be involved. It’s difficult to separate age-related hearing loss from that caused by factors such as noise. In fact, hearing loss in most older folks is both age- and noise-related.

All that aside, a recent study showed that what seems to be age-related hearing loss may instead be age-related loss in the brain’s ability to process speech, especially in noisy environments.

Speech Processing Study
University of Maryland researchers monitored brain responses of older and younger adults while someone was speaking to them in two settings: in a quiet environment and in the presence of a competing talker, speaking either English or an unfamiliar language (Dutch).

All test participants--15 older adults, ages 61 to 73, and 17 younger adults, ages 18 to 27--had clinically normal hearing. The older participants had also been screened for dementia and rated no worse than mild cognitive impairment (a score of 22 or higher on Montreal Cognitive Assessment).

Brain monitoring was done with two noninvasive, neurophysiological techniques--magnetoencephalography (MEG), which measures the magnetic fields generated by neuronal activity, and electroencephalography (EEG), which records electrical activity. The researchers focused on two areas of the brain--the midbrain (aka mesencephalon), which plays a major role in auditory processing, and the cerebral cortex, whose responsibility includes language and information processing.

Study Results
The researchers found the cortical and midbrain responses of the older adults were more dependent on the level of background noise and more affected by the information content of the background noise than the responses of the younger adults.

Normal hearing notwithstanding, the ability to process speech when there was a competing speaker present degraded significantly with aging. The effect was more pronounced when the competing speech was in English and thus understood than when it was in an unfamiliar language and thus incomprehensible.

Wrap Up
In an earlier blog post (Brain Focusing with Sound), I wrote that I was having a harder time ignoring distractions, which apparently is characteristic of aging.

So what should you do when conversing with someone like me, whose hearing is fine? Not much right now, but planning ahead, try to find a quiet space; don’t speak louder, but do speak clearly and maybe a tad slower than you would normally speak; and since actually seeing the speaker helps the listener process the speech, try to get my attention. That will be easier, of course, if you find a topic of interest.

Thanks for stopping by.

National Institute review of age-related hearing loss: www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/age-related-hearing-loss
University of Maryland research paper in Jour. of Neurophysiology:
Science Daily review of Univ. of Maryland study: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161018141152.htm

06 December 2016

Rachel Photographs Cuba

Welcome back. With Cuba in the news, I thought I’d kickoff my next 499 blog posts with a mention of my daughter’s book. A year ago, Rachel joined two other professional photographers on an eight day, photo tour of Havana and Viñales, Cuba.
Google map of Cuba, annotated with red arrows pointing to Havana (right) and Viñales, which are about a 110 mile drive apart. Note Miami, Florida, at top.
On their return to Ithaca, N.Y., the three were featured in a well-received joint exhibit, Photographing Cuba. Rachel followed that a few months later with another well-received solo exhibit, La Habana, which offered a small selection of her photos of Havana.

And she, of course, began offering a handful of Cuba photo greeting cards and, most recently, a 2017 Cuba photo calendar on her Etsy shop.

But for her pièce de résistance, to capture memories and respond to requests for photos, Rachel self-published a beautiful hardcopy book of 144 photos, with a reviewer’s forward and minimal text. Although she will never accede to publishing an e-book because it would require her photos be low resolution, she gave me permission to show a few photos from the book, alas, all low resolution and watermarked. (Captions are those from the book.) There are other photos in the publisher’s book preview, www.blurb.com/b/7286292-cuba.
Rachel’s Cuba photo book available from Blurb.
Red car white top.
Ration market, Old Havana.
Tomás the water buffalo.
Thanks for stopping by.
Review of Photographing Cuba exhibit: www.ithaca.com/entertainment/photographing-cuba-at-corners-gallery-until-march/article_cb725c62-d037-11e5-b61e-7b6271328a6f.html
Review of La Habana exhibit: www.ithaca.com/entertainment/art/intimacy-within-a-small-space-rachel-philipson-photographs-cuba/article_56026c38-3897-11e6-ac68-cbbd9de9690d.html

Rachel’s Etsy shop: www.etsy.com/il-en/shop/rachelphilipson?ref=pr_shop_more

02 December 2016

Here We Go Again!

Welcome back. Well, I hope you’re back. I am. I plan to start blogging again.

Warren (Vicki’s
fingers are in
I’m sorry I closed the shop last January. I needed an extended break. Among other entries on my break’s to-do list was Publish an E-Book. I drafted three and will stop at self-publishing one until I’m a celebrity, which might take a while.

Though it wasn’t on my list, I thought about beginning a new blog, one with a domain name more in line with my shift in emphasis toward reviewing new research in a mostly non-technical way. I didn’t get far with that thought because I’m not sure where the blog will go next. So, for now, I’ll stick with the somewhat misleading blog name (and the awkward em dash).

In my never-ending quest for organization, I’ve routinely begun a new blog topic on Friday and posted an addendum to the topic the following Tuesday. I hope you won’t give up on me if I fail to keep that schedule. The easiest way to know if something new is posted is to subscribe--submit your email address at the bottom of the blog website to be emailed new posts. (The format isn’t exact, but you’ll avoid the ads.) Or just check the website occasionally.

As always, thank you for stopping by. It’s greatly appreciated.

05 August 2016

Warren’s E-Book Addendum

First photo in Warren’s e-book:
Sydney and Beag (courtesy of Rachel)
My last blog post, Warren’s Pet E-Book, described my new e-book, No More Cats, Please! I noted that the e-book was available from Amazon and Smashwords. I’m happy to announce that Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and other bookseller websites are now carrying the book.

If you don’t have an e-reading device and don’t wish to download a free e-reader app from one of the booksellers, Smashwords offers a variety of book formats including one for plain old online reading.

Last photo in Warren’s e-book:
Mandy and Mindy
(courtesy of Vicki)
Again, if you read it, please let me know what you think, or just review the book where you buy it. Thank you.


Bookseller Links:

23 July 2016

Warren's Pet E-Book

E-book cover.
No, I'm not ready to start blogging again, though I have been writing. In fact, I just self-published an e-book, No More Cats, Please! I’m announcing the book’s release here to promote it, but also because the book evolved from a handful of the posts that appeared on this blog.

The book reviews my life with pets. The memories I recount are of my and my family’s dogs, fish, turtles, gerbils, a parakeet, a horned lizard, salamanders and, of course, cats, which dominated my last quarter century.

If you've followed this blog over the years, you may remember the cats--cerebral Lassie, disappearing Rex, Boss, the cat of lesser intelligence, and especially Henry, who, among other achievements, sent Boss into protective custody and so intimidated a pet sitter with 20 years’ experience, she was unable to enter the house.

Writing the book, I pulled together selected posts, filled in lots of detail and added cement. Then I prepared an appendix whose content goes beyond my life with pets. Since many of the blog posts reviewed research, including studies of animals and pets, I summarized several pet research posts.

The book is currently available for 99 cents (cheap) from either Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/More-Cats-Please-Warren-Philipson-ebook/dp/B01IPY78B6/) or Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/652117).

If you do read it--and I hope you will--please let me know what you think. (I can take it.) Or review the book where you buy it. Thank you.

19 January 2016


Today’s blog post marks a milestone, 500 posts. That’s probably enough. At least it’s enough to stop and decide if that’s enough.

It’s a little hazy, I’m not sure what’s around the bend, but I’ve arrived at 500 blog posts.

Thank you for visiting whether regularly or occasionally or, by chance, this one time. I’m grateful and honored. I hope you enjoyed the posts--the writing and photos, mine and those of my special guests and contest winners. I hope you laughed and learned and always found something of interest.

The blog will remain active for the time being and all posts should be accessible. If you’d like to look around, you can search the Blog Post Topics column of links on the right side of the blog website. (If you’re not on the website, it’s at www.retired--nowwhat.com) If there’s a specific post you can’t find, email me at RetiredNW@gmail.com.

If you email me, I’ll be happy to advise you when I know the blog’s future and when, where or what I’ll be writing again.

Be well. Thanks for stopping by. –warren