The uncommon common senses…Part 1

September is the disability awareness month. The Universal Accessibility & Disability Services (UADS) is sharing information from how to treat differently-abled individuals to having webinars on ear and eye care, and South African sign language (SASL) introductory webinars. UADS assists with tests and exam concessions, ensures accessible student housing, transport and technological services, and provides scribes and readers, Braille transcription, and organises orientation and mobility training for differently-abled students. The ear care webinar inspired this article.

The uncommon common senses…Part 1

Most people are born with five functional senses. Sadly, not all people die with them. Some are born without one common sense, not common sense! But, others are born differently-abled from the majority, while others become differently-abled after birth. Globally, at least 466 million people have disabling hearing loss. At least a billion young people (12–35 years) are at risk of hearing loss to unsafe listening practises. Unfortunately, the majority live in low-middle income countries due to inadequate, expensive and lack of knowledge on ear care.

A person has a hearing loss if they are unable to hear thresholds of 20 decibels (dB) or better in both ears. Decibel (dB) is the unit of measurement of sound, and the sound of a ticking watch is around 20 dB, and a normal conversation is approximately 60 dB. Hearing loss is caused by many factors, including noise-induced and age-related hearing loss. According to WHO, 50% of hearing loss can be prevented.

Smartphones have inbuilt limits to help you ensure safe listening levels and prompt a message when you reach unsafe volumes. Our ears are designed to take certain levels of noise daily (daily sound allowance), and too much noise harms the ears and hearing. The longer and louder you are exposed to noise, the more damage you will encounter. Hearing loss is a process and always limit the daily use of your audio devices and adhere to safe listening levels, by staying below 80 dB and keeping the volume down, and getting regular hearing check-ups. The level of noise and duration of exposure are common causes of hearing loss that can be prevented by using hearWho App, a freely available smartphone application, that measures the noise level for ear-care.

Did you know that no objects must be inserted into the ear? Earbuds are for outside the ear cleaning! Wax in our ears is normal because ears are self-cleaning organs, and don’t push the earbuds into the ear canal! Ensure your ears are always dry as moisture allows bacteria to enter and attack the ear canal. Exercising helps to keep the ear healthy and work at their maximum potential. Also, listening through earphones at 95% of maximum sound volume for 5 minutes continuously for most devices damage hearing. Minimising volume to 70% or less maximum sound volume and taking breaks when listening through ear/headphones or the 60/60 rule is advised. The 60/60 rule suggests listening through headphone at 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes a day. Well, now the ball is now in your court to take care of your ears!

The uncommon common sense…Part 2

The sense of sight has many benefits, not just because seeing is believing, but a good sight ensures good life performance. The World Sight Day, 10 October, is approaching and millions of people struggle with short- or far-sightedness. Of the 2.2 billion people with a vision impairment or blindness, over a billion cases could have been prevented. The chances of myopia (near-sightedness) are increased by time spent indoors and spending more time outdoors greatly reduces the risks of myopia. Almost all Type 2 diabetic patients will have diabetic retinopathy and regular eye checks and good diabetes control is important.

A good exercise improves blood circulation and improves toxins removal from eyes, while a good balanced diet and a good night sleep are also part of good eye-care. Ultraviolet (UV) light, UVA and UVB are not good for the eyes and so as the blue light from electronic devices. It is recommended to take screen breaks every 20 minutes. Look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Preventing glares on the screen and using the computer screen within 20–24” from your eyes, with the screen slightly below eye level and taking 15-minute breaks every 2 hours is encouraged. Smoke may trigger oxidative stress and alcohol, and saturated fats consumption may create free-radical reactions which affect vision. Avoiding being overweight, knowing your family medical history and regular eye check-ups are crucial to ensuring good vision.

Helen Keller once said, “Our ability to see connects us to objects. Our ability to hear connect us to people”. Let us continue taking great care of our eyes and ears.

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