Don’t let your senses go up in smoke
We all know of the harmful effects smoking can have on our lungs, but many are not aware of the impact it can have on our sight and hearing.
With research showing that nearly half (45%) of current smokers have been smoking more since the first lockdown began, and smoking among young adults has increased by 25%, compared to before the pandemic], Specsavers is encouraging people to get involved with the ‘Stoptober’ challenge to help protect our eyes and ears.
Giles Edmonds, Specsavers clinical services director, says: ‘Studies have shown that smoking can double your chances of developing cataracts, triple chances of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), increase the risk of uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of the eye) and double the risk of diabetes, which in turn could lead to diabetic retinopathy.’
While traditional tobacco smokers remain the most at risk of developing AMD, research also indicates that vapour from e-cigarettes can cause irritation and lead to dry eye syndrome.
Smoking can also damage your hearing, with smokers being as much as 70% more likely to suffer with hearing loss than non-smokers.
Gordon Harrison, Specsavers chief audiologist, says: ‘Smoking can have a real impact on your hearing as nicotine lowers blood oxygen levels which constricts blood vessels in the body. This can cause problems for your inner ear, which is where the sensitive hair cells live. These hair cells help conduct sound to your brain but if there is a lack of blood flow these can become damaged or destroyed. Unfortunately, once damaged, they cannot be restored, so neither can any hearing loss which results from this.’
Gordon adds: ‘The harmful toxins found in cigarettes can also damage neurotransmitters in the brain which help interpret sound and in some cases tinnitus can also occur as nicotine can bring on a phantom ‘ringing’ sound.’
As well as the Stoptober challenge, many people may also be taking part in ‘Go Sober for October’. Just like smoking, alcohol can also cause symptoms of dry eye and with one-quarter of UK adults (24%) reportedly drinking more since lockdown, it is important to be aware of the damage high alcohol consumption can have on our sight and hearing.
Mr Edmonds says: ‘When you lose more fluid than you take in, your body becomes dehydrated. Our eyes can become dry and irritated and we can even start to get slightly blurred vision because there are not enough tears to lubricate the eye.’
Drinking alcohol to excess can also negatively impact our hearing too as Gordon explains. ‘High alcohol consumption over a long period of time can result in damage to the central auditory cortex of the brain which can then lead to brain shrinkage. The damage to the auditory nerve then adds up, meaning even moderate drinkers are at risk,’ he says.
For more information or to request an appointment at your local store, visit www.specsavers.co.uk.