Humans are incredibly resilient creatures, but we’re not indestructible. We are susceptible to all manner of diseases and problems by an excess of this, or not enough of that. Our senses, in particular sight and hearing, are often affected by bad choices or mistakes we make over the long term. From staring at the television for too long, to listening to music too loud, we are constantly putting our senses at risk. This is especially pertinent in children who are still developing, but still true for adults, especially older adults whose cells do not regenerate and fix problems at the same rate as they do in younger adults. Here are a few mistakes we make which affect the senses of us and our children, and how to avoid those mistakes in future.
Have you ever sat and thought about how incredible our eyes are? Their ability to take light, shapes, color, and movement up close and at a distance, and translate that into something we actually understand and can respond to, almost instantaneously? It’s mind blowing! But when you think about it that way, it’s not surprising that they’re so delicate to external factors, and it’s so easy to ruin. Children’s eyes are especially delicate while they’re still developing, so we need to take extra special care to protect them.
Protecting them from bright sunlight is one of the most important things. Unlike us, children aren’t aware of the inherent risks with staring directly at a bright light such as the sun, so good quality sunglasses and shade are essential. Any mistakes can have a terrible impact on their eyesight in later life. Encouraging them to play with toys which are a short distance away when they’re babies enables them to build their hand-eye coordination, as does playing catch and other physical games as they’re growing up. It’s also important to limit time spent watching television - while it’s unlikely that they’ll get “square eyes” - which isn’t actually a thing - they could strain their eyes, and it doesn’t help to strengthen the eye muscles to stare in the same direction for long periods.
Our ears contain the smallest bones in our body, and the super thin ear drums which are what resonate to give us sound. The intricacy of this system understandably leaves it open to risks from problems. Listening to music too loud, either as a child or adult, can cause reduced hearing, and even tinnitus. The recommended level is under 75 decibels for adults, and lower for children, so make sure their MP3 players are turned right down.
Some children suffer hearing loss from birth or the result of a childhood illness, and have to use audio aids for kids, but otherwise, many hearing problems can be avoided by simply being careful. Just like teaching them to wear a helmet while riding their bike, put their seatbelt on in the car, and wear sunscreen when they’re outside, it’s crucial, but often neglected, to teach them the importance of caring for their hearing. Ensure you have earplugs on hand when you need them, and teach them to put their fingers in their ears when a siren comes past - if you lead by example they will learn to care for their own hearing, and they’re less likely to suffer problems in later life.
Smell & Taste
We don’t necessarily think of our sense of smell and taste as something which needs protecting, but they’re at risk as much as our other senses. Our sense of taste and smell is mostly based in the back of our nose, which receives particles in the air and communicates that information with the brain, which is able to make sense of it. When a part of that process becomes inhibited, the sense is dulled. It’s crucial to deal with problems such as sinus infections as they come, as if they’re not properly treated the sense of smell can result in long-term times. Childhood or adult allergies can also have a big impact on the quality of sense and smell, so keeping them properly treated and regularly reviewing medication can help to ensure they don’t come between you and your favorite scents.
Smoking is one sure-fire way to ruin your sense of smell and taste, without fail. Smoking irritates the nose passages, which can cause inflammation and resulted in a lessened sense of taste and smell. While they might not notice the onset of this as they start smoking, people who quit almost always report a heightened sense of smell and taste. They claim that food tastes better than ever after they quit smoking, because they can finally taste and smell it properly again.
Can you imagine a life without touch? Never being able to run your fingers through your cat’s hair, feel the sun on your skin, or even stub your toe on a door frame. This might sound impossible, but just like our other senses, our sense of touch needs protecting too. We feel things through our skin, ordinarily, and those touches are transmitted by nerves to our brain, which then processes the sense. This nervous system is crucial, and when it becomes damaged or numbed, our sense of touch takes the hit. Our hands are particularly sensitive, so ensure you always protect them and their nerves. Using oven gloves when handling hot objects stops you from overwhelming the nerves with pain signals, and ensuring you never cut or break the skin seriously, as this can actually sever the nerves, leaving some areas without any sense of touch.
Wearing protective clothing, such as steel toe capped boots when working outside or using a lawnmower, or using a mouthguard when playing sport, can help to ensure you never cause permanent nerve damage to these areas of your body. Encouraging children to adopt these policies is also essential to protecting them from the same sorts of risks, and ensuring they don’t suffer from any loss of touch.
Every single one of our senses needs protecting from damage in order to allow us to enjoy life fully and easily, and encouraging your children to appreciate the importance of caring for their senses allows them to grow up safely and healthily too.