Outdoor concerts and activities are synonymous with summer, offering North Texans an opportunity to enjoy the warmer weather. But these traditions often have a connection to the health of your eyes and ears, so it is important to be mindful as we celebrate the summer and all that goes with it.
Here are several summertime settings to take note of to help protect your eyes and ears:
A Day in the Sun
If you’re planning an outing that involves many hours in the sun, it is a good idea to use eye protection in addition to sunscreen.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation can cause damage to both your skin and your eyes. UV rays may contribute to the development of cataracts and macular degeneration, which may result in blindness. Intense short-term exposure to UV light may cause “eye sunburn,” a painful condition associated with outdoor recreational activity. Too much long-term exposure may contribute to skin cancer around the eyes and sight-threatening conditions. To help reduce these risks, protect your eyes from the sun by wearing sunglasses that block out 99% or more of UV rays and a wide-brimmed hat.
Keep in mind that it is important for people – especially children – to get outside and take breaks from digital devices. Studies show that natural light can promote healthy vision, especially among children and teens with developing eyes, and that spending time outside may be a protective factor against nearsightedness. Partly due to extended periods of up-close reading and screen time, more than 40% of Americans have nearsightedness (myopia), which is the inability to see far off objects clearly, and the percentage is growing.
Sounds of Summer
Summer is also a popular time for sporting events and music concerts, which can lead to exposure to loud sounds. Crowd noise at some sporting events can exceed 90 decibels; music concerts can exceed 115 decibels. Prolonged exposure to sounds above 85 decibels may contribute to gradual hearing loss, so it is a good idea to use ear protection – such as earplugs or earmuffs – when seeing your favorite team or band. This type of protection is especially important for babies and children attending loud events, as young people’s hearing follicles are more easily damaged compared to those of adults.
Likewise, extended listening to music or digital content through headphones or earbuds may damage hearing over time. To help prevent that, turn the volume on your electronic device to 60 percent or lower and listen for no longer than 60 minutes at a time. When using power tools or a lawn mower, never listen to earbuds.
Fireworks are another summer tradition, and also a potentially dangerous one for both the ears and eyes. These explosions can exceed 150 decibels, so people should always view fireworks from a significant distance. Hospital ERs annually treat nearly 13,000 people for fireworks-related accidents, with eye injuries – such as burns, lacerations, contusions and foreign objects in the eye – in many cases causing permanent damage.
According to Dr. Sarah-Anne H. Schumann, Regional Chief Medical Officer, UnitedHealthcare of North Texas and Oklahoma, considering these tips may help you focus on fun, friends and family during the summer, while helping maintain your eye and ear health – and as a result contribute to your overall health – now and in the future.
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