SENSE-IBLE advice from the experts

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(Last Updated On: April 20, 2020)

Protecting our senses has come into sharp focus as the nation continues to work – and socialise – from home during the lockdown.

Specsavers’ eye and hearing health experts are urging caution around the undue strain that staring for hours at a computer screen, excessive use of smart devices, overdosing on TV, back-to-back tele and video conferencing and face-timing family and friends, will place on people’s senses in their bid to beat boredom and keep themselves entertained.

The optician’s eye and hearing health experts have devised an at-home sensory health guide packed with advice and tips to help the nation protect their eyes and ears.

At home sensory health guide:

Avoiding eye strain-

Working on a laptop, using a mobile to keep in touch with loved ones and abreast of the news or settling down to a box set with your family – daily screen time is likely to increase dramatically in the coming weeks.

Specsavers Clinical Services Director Giles Edmonds says: ‘As we’re mostly confined to our homes and with 98% of UK households owning a television, it’s no stretch to assume many of us will spend more time in front of a screen.

‘But eyes are not designed to be fixated on a single object for a long period of time so can often become strained when we focus on screens, especially if they are a smaller laptop, tablet or smart device screens.

‘While eye strain is uncomfortable, it is not usually serious, and tends to alleviate once you rest your eyes. Symptoms to look out for include eye discomfort, headaches, sore, tired, burning or itchy eyes, difficulty focusing, watery eyes, dry eyes, blurred or double vision, and increased sensitivity to light.’

To combat these common eye concerns Mr Edmonds advises people to:

Rest your eyes – Follow the 20:20:20 rule. Look up from your screen every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Looking into the distance helps relax the focusing muscles of your eyes, which in turn reduces eye fatigue.

This rule is also important for parents who have children being schooled online at home. Monitor how much screen time they have each day and make sure that they have regular breaks.

Make the most of your allowed outdoor time. Theories show that taking a screen break and going for a short walk allows eyes to rest and for our minds to regroup.

Reduce glare – Reflections on your computer screen can cause glare and lead to eye strain. Try reducing this by attaching an anti-glare screen to your monitor or covering windows to avoid external light shining onto the screen.

Sympotoms to watch out for-

While most eye conditions are minor, if you experience any of the following it’s important to get in touch with your local optometrist.

– Redness, pain or discomfort
– Blurred vision
– Flashes of light
– An increase in the number of visible floaters
– Sudden loss of vision

Although Specsavers is currently closed for routine eye and hearing tests, we have been asked by NHS to be open for urgent and essential care. Find your nearest open store on our website, www.specsavers.co.uk

Choosing the right foods-

As panic buying begins to ease, look for foods online and in stores that are rich in eye-health boosting nutrients. Eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, including dark green leaves, is good for your general health and may support good eye health

– Spinach and kale, for example, are rich in Lutein, which is essential to functioning eyes.
– Oily fish such as salmon is packed full of Omega3, which is great for overall health including the eyes.
– Kiwi gives a burst of A, B and C vitamins, which help maintain healthy cells and tissues in the eyes.
– Eggs have antioxidant properties which can reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
– Meanwhile, peppers contain zeaxanthin, which helps to absorb potentially damaging types of light.

It’s also good general health advice to keep your water bottle topped up, particularly when you are stuck indoors, as good hydration can help avoid dry eye. And of course, picking up good habits and cutting out the bad ones, like smoking, will also protect your eyes.

Turn down the volume-

If you find your TV consumption increasing or you spend much of your day on conference calls, keep the volume at a safe level, especially if you use headphones.

Gordon Harrison, Specsavers Chief Audiologist, says: ‘Just as when listening to music, you should make sure you listen to calls at safe levels. Normal levels of conversation are about 65 decibels, which is almost half the levels you get at places like concerts and events. However, when you take calls while wearing headphones it is easy to let the volume creep up – especially if you are trying to cancel out background noise. This could eventually result in hearing loss or tinnitus, so don’t let volume creep above 60%.’

Waxing lyrical-

If ears are blocked with wax, noises can become muffled and you may experience ringing, popping, pain or a ‘fullness’ in the ear that may mean the wax needs removing professionally.

Avoid this by keeping ears clean by wiping the outside of them after we’ve had a shower. Never put anything smaller than your elbow into your ear! Cotton buds can damage the ear canal or push wax deeper, which can lead to impacted wax, infection or a perforated eardrum.

Looking after your hearing aids-

If you wear hearing aids you should treat them with the same care that you would any other device, as well as keeping them scrupulously clean. Use a soft cloth or tissue to remove wax or moisture and keep them in a dry place when you’re not using them.

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