Thursday, November 30, 2006
Do not neglect having your vision and hearing tested
By Dr. Anthony Policastro

In the play "The Miracle Worker" Helen Keller overcame both deafness and blindness. She knew how important hearing and sight were. Many of us take both of those for granted. About six years ago, I wrote about these common skills. I thought it might be time to update that column. Mild forms of hearing loss and vision loss are common. In most cases treatment is available. However, many individuals fail to take advantage of those treatments. There are two common reasons for this. The first one is denial. This is the most frequent reason. When I was in the Air Force, I was required to have an annual physical. In 1990, I went for my physical. I had my vision checked with the machine that they used. When I looked in the machine, I could see the letters very clearly. The problem was that I saw two of each letter. That was not a real problem when the letters were large. For example I could easily see two of every letter in the 20/40 line. However, when the letters became smaller, they were almost on top of each other. I could clearly see two of them, but I could not be sure what they were. I knew that when your vision gets bad, things become blurred. These letters were not blurred. They were just on top of each other. Therefore, my response was obvious. I told them that their machine must be broken. It obviously was not my eyes since the letters were clear. I just could not read them. In fact it was not the machine. My vision had changed since the last visit. I needed glasses for reading. There was no way to deny what the machine had said. I was in a position where I had to get my eyes checked every year. Most other people have no such requirement. They wait until their vision is a significant problem before they go to get it checked. There is no reason for this. A similar thing happens with hearing problems. As people age, their hearing frequently gets worse. Often those around them know about the need for hearing assistance long before they do. Hearing testing is not as readily available as vision testing. Therefore, the denial often goes on for many years. There are some things that suggest hearing should be tested. Some people work in noisy environments. They spend years in these environments. These people should have regular hearing tests. They should also wear hearing protection to prevent damage. Others intentional listen to things that are very loud. This may be a car radio. It may be a stereo. Over the years this too can have an effect. One warning sign to look for is something called a threshold shift. This relates to a ringing in the ears that will occur after a period of loud noise. It can last for hours or days after the noise has disappeared. If you are in any of these situations hearing loss is something to consider. The other common problem related to identification of vision and hearing problems is vanity. Some people are self-conscious. They do not want to be seen with glasses on. They do not want to be seen with bifocals. They do not want to be seen with hearing aids. There is one interesting thing about these individuals. If they do not wear glasses or hearing aids, they are more likely to look foolish when they cannot see or hear something that is obvious to everyone else. For example, going to a restaurant and being unable to read the menu can result in some odd selections. You may misread the menu. You may ask for something that they do not even have on the menu. If you have problems hearing, you may not hear the specials for the evening. You may order something else. Then when the person next to you orders the special, you will make it clear that you did not hear the server when you indicate that you did not see it on the menu. Hearing and vision problems are common. We should not take them for granted. We should not deny that they are present. We should not be upset about glasses or hearing aids. Helen Keller did not have a choice. We do. We should take advantage of that choice and pay attention to our hearing and vision.

Dr, Anthony Policastro is medical director at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital.

Nanticoke Memorial Hospital welcomes Dr. Cook
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital has added another physician to its active medical staff. Dr. Katherine Cook, a Family Practice physician has joined Nanticoke's Georgetown Medical Center, located at 505B W. Market Street, Georgetown. She is currently accepting new patients. Dr. Cook earned her medical degree at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston and completed her residency at Lancaster General Hospital in Pennsylvania where she worked with a diverse group of rural and urban patients. She joins Nanticoke from Bibb Medical Associates in Alabama. Before earning her medical degree, Dr. Cook was a practicing Physical Therapist for six years. Nanticoke Memorial now has over 90+ members on its active medical staff, representing 35 specialties. To find out more, call Nanticoke's Physician Referral Services at 1-877-NHS-4-DOCS.

Public Health flu vaccination
Delaware's Division of Public Health announces its influenza vaccination schedule for Delawareans without a healthcare provider or whose insurance does not cover flu shots. While many DPH adult clinics accept walk in clients, DPH will vaccinate children by appointment only on scheduled days. Medicare Part B and donations are accepted.
Sussex County adult clinics
Dec. 7, Thursday, Blades Fire Hall, 200 East 5th St., Blades, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Walk In
Children under the age of 18 will be seen by appointment only at the DPH Clinics and State Service Centers. Parents or guardians interested in making appointments for flu shots may call one of these DPH clinics.

  • Sussex County, Georgetown State Service Center, 856-5213
  • Sussex County, Shipley State Service Center, 628-2006
For more about flu clinic locations and dates, go to

Delaware Hospice Festival of Trees
The festival in Georgetown is Dec. 1-3 at Del Tech. Festivities include a gala and live and silent auction on Dec. 1; and a holiday and collectibles auction as well as lunch with Santa on Dec. 2. Daily events include a gift shop, bake shop, raffles, and craft elves. General admission is $3 for adults and $1 for students.

Grotto Festival of Trees
The Alzheimer's Association Delaware Valley Chapter is participating in the Grotto Festival of Trees. LifeCare at Lofland Park's Memory Walk Team for 2007 will sponsor a tree at the Grand Slam in Seaford. Make plans to visit one of this location before January 1 to make your donation in support of the Alzheimer's Association to fund local programs and services. Each store will donate an additional $250 to the charity whose tree receives the most donations. For more information, call the Georgetown Office at 854-9788.

Additional flu clinics are scheduled
The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) has offered statewide flu clinics for locations that had been postponed in October In Sussex County they are scheduled as follows:
Tuesday, Dec. 5 - Cape Henlopen Senior Center, 11 Christian St., Rehoboth Beach - from 9:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 7 - Indian River Senior Center, 322-A Wilson Highway, Millsboro from - 9:30 a.m. to 11:45 p.m.
No appointment is necessary.
Vaccines offered at DPH clinics provide protection against influenza strains expected this year, and DPH encourages all residents to get a flu shot. No vaccine has been developed to protect against avian influenza H5N1, which has not occurred among people in North America. Most community physicians are also able to administer flu shots. Contact your family doctor for appointment and vaccine availability. For more information about flu clinic locations and dates, go to at