Protect Your Vision and Hearing

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May 02, 2017
by Darra McMullen,
Women’s Health Network Writer/Researcher
            
Enjoying the beautiful sights and sounds of spring can lead us to appreciate two other wonders of nature, our amazing senses of vision and hearing.  After we’ve paused for a few moments during our busy days to think about just how important our vision and hearing are to our lives, our next thoughts probably are (or should be) focused on what we can do to preserve these vital senses and keep our eyes and ears healthy.
 
Eye Health:
           
 •  Injury prevention is key to preserving sight.  Local ophthalmologists report that eye injury is one of the most common reasons for potential vision damage or loss.  Fortunately, most eye injury can be prevented with some thoughtful steps.
              
One of the most frequently reported reasons for eye injury is accidental impaling of the eye during yard work.  All too often, doctors report, people forget to protect their eyes with safety goggles (preferably), glasses, or even a simple close of the eyes and a head turn to avoid potentially flying wood or metal pieces, dirt, dust, or other objects sent into the air during yard clean-up.  Tree or hedge trimming is especially likely to result in falling debris or splintered pieces that “snap back” hitting the person in the face and/or eye.  Doctors report that many eye injury patients are so focused on the branches they desire to cut that they will actually walk right into another branch, sometimes containing thorns, thereby impaling their eyes.
              
Various types of debris thrown violently into the air by power trimmer/edgers or lawn mowers can also pose a serious hazard to unprotected eyes.  In short, when working outdoors with yard work or carpentry projects, always wear safety goggles and keep a close watch for anything that could impale eyes.
              
Another common group of eye injury problems seen by ophthalmologists is chemical burns.  Although, as anticipated, acid burns are certainly a bad problem, chemical burns from highly basic substances can, in some cases, be even worse because they damage the eye slowly over several days, eating away the eyes’ tissues over time.
              
Again, wearing safety goggles can protect eyes well when using hazardous chemicals.  “Hazardous” chemicals can be something as ordinarily benign as household cleaners like bleach or laundry detergent.  Always take seriously any contact between eyes and these chemicals.  Even seemingly mild irritation and slight eye exposure can, hours or days later, become a serious problem.

•  Besides injury prevention, one of the most important steps we can take to preserve our eye health is to wear sunglasses.  Yes, our eyes need sun protection, too – just like our skin.
              
Many people don’t realize that they can get melanoma of the eye, which can cause blindness and can spread to other parts of the body, just as a melanoma of the skin can do.
              
Look for sunglasses with broad spectrum UV protection for best prevention.


•  Nutritionally speaking, there are a number of points to remember to improve the odds of maintaining healthy eyesight.  Be sure to keep up intake of all the B vitamins, as well as vitamins A, C, and E.  The minerals zinc and selenium are also very important.  Keep up generous intake of fruits and vegetables, especially yellow and yellow-orange foods, such as carrots, yams, and cantaloupes.
             
•  Another consideration in sight preservation is the effort to prevent or delay the onset of cataracts.  Cataract formation is enhanced by both high blood sugar levels and sun exposure, as well as other factors, such as simple aging.  Even people with excellent blood sugar numbers and with a strong track record of protecting their eyes from the sun can develop cataracts, but there’s no need to invite trouble by being careless about the sun’s effects on eyes or by not keeping blood sugar in check.
 
Ear Health:
              
•  Quite possibly one of the worst offenders contributing to hearing loss is the exposure to loud noises.  Hearing loss most commonly comes on slowly, gradually, and often without notice to the affected person until significant damage and hearing loss has already transpired.  Doctors warn to always use ear protection when participating in noisy activities, like home improvement projects, factory work, or loud entertainment experiences like attending rock music concerts, movie theatres, or car races.

              
•  Another group of slow, creeping hearing thieves are low grade, chronic infections of the ear.  Bacterial infections of the middle ear can reduce hearing in children and adults alike by damaging the eardrum and surrounding tissues.
              
Fungus infections, which cause gradual sloughing of the skin of the ear canal, can, over time, reduce the number of tiny hairs in the ear that aid hearing.  Fewer tiny hairs in the ear result in reduced hearing.  Even persistent allergic reactions that result in swelling on or near the ear drum or result in sloughing of skin in the ear canal can eventually cause hearing loss.  Always promptly address any lingering infection or allergy symptoms of the ear with a doctor – before hearing loss sets in.
            
•  Recently reported research from University of Florida scientists says that their animal study (with mice) shows that sedentary animals lost 60% of their hearing over time, while mice that exercised lost only 40% of hearing capacity.  Although this is only one experiment, study author Shinishi Someya, PhD., makes a good point by noting that exercise boosts blood flow to the inner ear.  Improved circulation helps protect against the loss of capillaries and sound receptor cells, which can lessen hearing.  Now we have yet another reason to get moving – preserving our hearing as we age!
             
As we get moving in the beautiful outdoors of spring, let’s be mindful of how we can protect our precious sight and hearing and be thankful for all they bring to our lives. 

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