From dry eyes to earache, the cold weather can impact our sight and hearing, but simple steps can alleviate any issues and discomfort, as Specsavers experts advise:
Cold winter weather can have a huge impact on our bodies – including our eyes and ears. With the deep freeze taking hold of Ireland this week, and a severe cold weather warning being issued by The Met Office, the experts at Specsavers are advising the public on how they can best protect their ears and eyes during the cold spell.
Kerril Hickey, Chairman of Specsavers Ireland, says: ‘Dry eyes are very common in the winter months. The cold temperatures, crisp air, low humidity, and windy conditions outdoors – combined with the dry air indoors from central heating – can cause our eyes to become drier as tears evaporate from the eye’s surface. This can leave them feeling sore, scratchy and irritated. It also isn’t uncommon for vision to become slightly blurred and in some cases, eyes can become watery.
‘Usually, glands in your eyelids secrete an oily substance that slows the evaporation of tears between blinks. When these glands don’t function properly, you may get dry patches on your eyes – known as dry eye syndrome. The patches become sore, and extra tears are produced as a reflex, which is often the cause of watery eyes.
‘While it may sound counter intuitive, lubricating eye drops are usually the best way to treat watery eyes as a result of dry eye syndrome. It is also best to avoid activities that aggravate your symptoms such as using a hairdryer or sitting near a fire or heater. When indoors, try placing a bowl of water underneath your radiator to add some humidity back into the air too.
‘If you are experiencing persistent watery eyes, always make an appointment to see your optometrist to check your overall eye health and help spot any eye conditions.’
Wearing protective glasses when you go outside will also help shield your eyes from the blistering winds or incoming bouts of snow. If you find your glasses are steaming up, due to the changes in temperature, Specsavers carry a range of anti-fog products, including lens cleaners and anti-fog cloths. These are specifically designed to repel condensation from your lenses to help prevent them from steaming up.
It is also important to be aware of how much time you’re spending looking at screens while sheltering from the cold. Try following the 20:20:20 rule where you look up from your screen every 20 minutes at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will help minimise eye strain and further alleviate dry eye syndrome.
When it comes to hearing health, Specsavers Ireland Audiology Chairperson, Martina McNulty, says: ‘As our ears don’t have the same level of fat as elsewhere in the body it means they are less protected in the cold. This can leave the nerves in the ears exposed, which is why they are often the first part of the body to feel the chill. This can be quite painful and can irritate the sensitive tissue in the ear canals, which can cause earache.
‘If you are consistently exposing your ears to cold temperatures, your body can also react by increasing bone growth in the ear canal in an attempt to block out the cold. While these bone spurs, also called exostosis, are the body’s way to protect you from the cold, they can actually cause harmful damage to ear health and hearing, as they constrict the ear canal. This can make it difficult for you to drain water, dirt or ear wax, which can lead to reoccurring ear infections or even hearing loss.
‘The best thing to do is to try and cover your ears with a hat, scarf or earmuffs when you go outside to keep them warm and protected. If these items get wet or damp, switch them out to ensure your ears stay dry and warm.
‘Hearing aid users may also find that there is more condensation on their devices than usual during the colder months, so make sure you keep them clean and dry. Cold conditions can cause batteries to run down faster so always keep a spare available. If you need more advice or information on keeping your hearing aid dry and safe during the winter, speak to your hearing aid specialist.’
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