Our bodies are remarkable machines. And the brain is an incredible computer. It can take messages from five different senses at a time and convert those signals into meaningful experiences for us. We remember those experiences, and we respond to the senses as we need to. Unfortunately, everyday life takes its toll on the body. Our senses are at risk and as the years go by you might find that they start to let you down:
Our vision is perhaps our most important sense. We know that thousands of people across the globe manage just fine with impaired or loss of vision every day. But those of us that have our sight today don’t want to lose it in the future. Age will play a part in your visual acuity as the years roll by. There are many illnesses and diseases that might also affect your vision. Most of these can be treated or corrected, and many of them can be avoided by taking extra care of your eyes.
Your eyesight can be affected by your diet. As with most other parts of your body, the eyes need the right amounts of healthy nutrients. They are made up of cells that need a good supply of blood to work properly. Genetics can sometimes play a part in the effectiveness of your vision. As with all the senses (and every other part of the body), the brain is important too. The nerves that send the messages to and from the brain must be cared for too. They are most often affected by the circulation. This suggests that exercise is important too to maintain a healthy heart.
Most of us use electronic devices every single day. For some, staring at screens starts from the moment we wake until the time we close our eyes to sleep. Many phone and computer screens emit light in the blue area of the visible light spectrum. It is thought that this can trick the brain into believing there is lots of daylight. Unfortunately, this makes it very difficult for the brain to produce the hormones we need to fall asleep! There is eyewear to protect your eyes from this type of light at websites like www.spektrumglasses.com. You should reduce screen time whenever you can.
Remember those rock concerts when you were younger? Do you remember Walkmans? Music is good for the soul, but loud music causes permanent damage to your hearing. Do you play a musical instrument? Even this could be causing hearing problems. Noises that nobody else can hear like whistles and ringing might be a sign of tinnitus. It’s not usually possible to cure this. Tinnitus can sometimes go away on its own, but it is most often caused by exposure to loud sounds for prolonged periods.
If you work in a noisy environment, your employer should issue you with ear protectors or defenders. This reduces the intensity and amount of noise that vibrates your ear drum. There are free apps for you to test the volume of sound where you are right now. You can find a list of common sounds and the decibel levels they might reach at http://www.noisehelp.com/noise-level-chart.html. For most, it is only prolonged exposure that might put your hearing at risk.
Age will also put your hearing at risk. The higher frequencies might become more difficult to hear. Some hearing aids simply amplify the sounds picked up by the device. They can help you enjoy conversations again and keep you connected with the people around you. Unfortunately, none are as good as healthy hearing. You might not be able to enjoy all the nuances of a piece of music or hear the smallest of noises anymore.
Our sense of touch is mainly there to help us survive. We can feel the cold on our skin, and we can feel when things are too hot or too sharp. We also use our sense of touch to support our fine motor skills. It’s harder to type on a touchscreen than a keyboard, for example. The sense of touch can be heightened with practice too. If you lost your sight, the other senses would be much more essential and become acuter.
Nerve damage can reduce your ability to feel the full range of sensations on your skin. You might lose motor control of that area of your body too, making it much harder to pick things up. If you work at a desk operating a computer all day, you might be at risk of a trapped nerve affecting your fingers and hands. Trapped ulnar nerves can weaken the hand and drastically alter the sensation in your fingers. Regular drop your arms to your side and stretch your upper body.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is quite a common problem. It can be caused by age, repetitive stresses on the hands and wrists, or even by pregnancy. Surgery is very routine and highly successful to correct the problem. The symptoms are quite alarming though, as you might not be able to use your hand for much at all. The messages to your brain are mixed making touch sensations quite unpleasant or numbed. Regular resting, stretching, and variety of exercises can help reduce your risk of this happening.
Age is the biggest risk to your sense of taste. In fact, your sense of taste has been changing throughout your life. During your childhood, and well into adulthood, you might have a preference for sweet things. Some health conditions like poor circulation or hypothyroidism can alter the sensation of taste too. You might prefer very strong flavors like curry spices and vinegar.
Later in life, you might find many foods leave an unpleasant taste. Some medications and radiation therapies can make most foods taste unpleasant. This can easily lead to malnourishment. We need to have a good sense of taste to determine if foods are safe to eat. It also serves to activate our appetite and digestive system. Eat a rounded diet and don’t be afraid to introduce new flavors from time to time.
Good oral health is essential for a healthy tongue and saliva glands. Poor quality dental care can leave a nasty taste in your mouth too. You might suffer from bad breath and find this off-putting when it comes to mealtimes. There are four different taste sensations that we can identify thanks to the tastebuds. Each of these ‘flavors’ come from the chemical reaction of the food mixing with our saliva:
However, without the sense of smell, it can be very difficult to identify exactly what it is that is in our mouths.
Taste and smell are closely connected. The olfactory nerve cells are connected directly to the brain. That means we can often smell something before we can taste it or even feel it. Without the sense of smell, we wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell that food was off and unsafe to eat. We wouldn’t be able to smell smoke from a fire or the mess the dog left behind the sofa! It’s a pretty crucial sense to alert us to problems, and it helps us to enjoy the food we eat too.
Smoking is thought to reduce the acuity of the sense of smell. Colds and sinus infection will also make it difficult to accurately identify odors. Some people are born without much of a sense of taste or smell. It rarely bothers them. But if you were to lose your sense of smell you might become quite concerned about what you’re missing. It can also affect how you taste your favorite foods.
To take care of your sense of smell, stay away from polluted areas. You should avoid strong chemical gases and stop smoking. As with the sense of taste, radiation therapy can greatly reduce your sense of smell. Anti-allergy medication is thought to help enhance your sense of smell if you have been having any problems.
Making Sense Of Your Senses Throughout Your Life
Life can be tough on the senses. We’re all different though, and we react to these things differently. Some people are hypersensitive while others have a very limited sensitivity to the stimuli around us. The brain and the nervous system play a big part in each of the senses, so it’s important to protect this too. Wear a helmet when cycling or on a motorcycle or horse. Maintain a healthy posture with strengthening exercises and stretching. Enjoy a varied diet including plenty of foods rich in B vitamins for a healthy nervous system.
We are a resilient species and can easily survive with a loss of one or more of the senses. Age will sadly rob the sensitivity of each of them over time. Make sure your life is rich in stimuli to enjoy everything your 5 senses can offer you.