This is a partnered post.
Sight. Hearing. Touch. Taste. Smell. These are our five senses and they help us to interact with the world. As we get older, these senses may naturally start to deteriorate. However, bad habits and lifestyle choices can speed up this process – potentially even leading to the total loss of one of these senses.
By looking after your senses, you can help to keep them sharp longer. Here is a detailed look into the five senses and the ways in which you can look after each of them.
Most people need glasses as they get older. However, taking various protective measures could prevent premature vision loss, as well as preventing various eye diseases.
Protecting our eyes from bright light is one of the best ways to preserve our vision. It’s true that looking at the sun will make you go blind – too much UV light exposure can damage the retina and can also increase the risk of developing cataracts. You can prevent this damage by wearing shades in sunny weather and by not looking directly at the sun. Wearing eye protection could also be necessary when using certain machinery that creates bright light such as laser cutters.
The second way to keep our eyes healthy is to get the right nutrients. Leafy vegetables, oily fish, eggs and citric fruits are all great sources of vitamins and proteins that are essential to good eye health. Carrots are also a rich source of vitamin A, which can help to strengthen vision (although they may not necessarily help you to see in the dark).
Quitting smoking can also help protect the eyes. Smoking increases the risk of developing macular degeneration and cataracts – a result of the chemicals and the smoke.
If you notice that your vision is starting to fade, it’s worth seeing an optician and getting your eyes tested. In most cases, you can fix your vision with glasses or contact lenses. Laser eye surgery could also be an option for some people. Whatever you do, don’t ignore vision loss – the added strain on your eyes will likely cause it to get worse.
In the same way that too much light can damage the eyes, too much noise can damage the ears. Noise exposure is one of the most common causes of premature hearing loss. By wearing ear protection in noisy environments (e.g. at concerts, motorsports events, on construction sites) you can reduce the risk. It could also be worth watching the volume level when listening to music – if you like to crank your music as high as possible, it’s possible that you could be damaging your ears (ringing in the ears afterwards is a sign that you’ve already caused damage).
There are a number of other unusual ways in which people can damage their ears. Using cotton buds to clear out the ears is a common example – this can damage the ear canal in some cases and cause impacted earwax. If you regularly swim, you should also be careful of getting water in the ears – wearing a swim cap can prevent infections caused by getting water in the ears.
A good diet can also help to preserve your sense of hearing. Minerals such as magnesium and zinc are great for ear health – you can find these minerals in foods such as bananas, potatoes, cashews, red meat and dark chocolate. If you’re worried you might be magnesium-deficient, you can take an online test to find out if you need to increase your daily intake.
If you notice your sense of hearing starting to fade, it’s worth seeing an audiologist. Hearing can usually be restored by getting a hearing aid fitted. There are even hearing aids available to treat conditions such as tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears).
Our sense of touch is triggered by nerve endings all over the body. Damage to these nerve endings could cause permanent lack of touch in certain areas. This could be from burns, cuts or other injuries.
The hands and feet are two areas where our sense of touch is most essential – protecting these areas from injury is therefore very important. A few precautions could involve wearing oven gloves when handling hot objects and wearing shoes when outdoors.
Sunburn and smoking can also damage nerve endings all across the skin. Wearing sun screen when out in the sun and quitting smoking could be two ways to keep your sense of touch sharp.
Hyposthesia (loss of touch) can also occur as a result of other triggers including spinal injuries, decompression sickness or deficiencies of nutrients like thiamine. If you experience unexplained numbness around the body, it’s best to always see a doctor who will be able to diagnose it.
Certain bad habits could also cause you to lose your sense of taste.
As with many of the other senses already mentioned, smoking is a big cause of loss of taste. On top of damaging taste buds, it can increase the risk of oral cancers.
Eating too many sugary and fatty foods could also result in a loss of taste. This is less to do with actual tastebud damage and more to do with overstimulation – eventually your tastebuds could become so used to these strong flavours, that other milder flavours are barely noticeable.
Loss of taste may not come with any treatment. That said, if you experience a noticeable loss of taste, it could be worth seeing a doctor.
Our sense of smell and taste are strongly linked. A loss of smell could result in a loss of taste, so you may want to check that it’s not a nasal problem.
Loss of smell is often the result of temporary sinus problems, but occasionally it can be the result of other triggers. Inhaling certain chemicals for instance could permanently damage our sense of smell – wearing a face mask when dealing with these chemicals is important for protecting your nose (and in most cases your lungs too).
Smoking can also damage our sense of smell by damaging the small hairs inside our nose. Quitting could help you to keep this sense – and the rest of your senses too.