By Dr. Gary Grosel, chief medical officer, UnitedHealthcare of Illinois
Edited by Lawndale Bilingual News
Outdoor concerts and activities are synonymous with summer, offering Illinois residents 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 at the beach, parks, lakefront, street fest or any summer activity 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.
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 percent 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.