Not long ago, we published a couple of blogs and guest posts talking about people who wear sunglasses for medical reasons. We talked about U2 singer Bono, for example, who wears tinted sunglasses due to suffering from glaucoma. NFL coach Tony Sparano is another prolific wearer of sunglasses thanks to an injury he suffered as a teen. In light of that, we recently became aware of another medical condition that can be helped by wearing sunglasses.
The disorder we are referring to is actually a family of disorders of the vestibular system. These disorders affect the system of nerves and other tissues in the ears that are normally responsible for balance and spatial orientation. A person suffering from one of these disorders can display a lengthy list of symptoms, including general lightheadedness, dizziness, and even spells of severe vertigo.
So, how can a pair of dark wayfarer or aviator sunglasses help? By breaking up visual disturbances. You see, the brain of someone with a vestibular disorder is attempting to overcome the problem by relying on visual information to replace the missing vestibular information.
Quieting the Visual Space
There are several kinds of vestibular disorders along with a variety of causes. One particular disorder is known as bilateral vestibulo-ocular reflex loss – or bilateral vestibular loss for those who prefer a less technical term. This is a disorder in which the vestibular system in both sides of the head no longer functions properly. The loss of function can be either partial or complete.
A person suffering from this condition finds visual stimulation annoying. He or she may find it hard to remain upright in the midst of large crowds of people who are constantly moving. Scrolling a computer screen may be difficult, watching TV may be challenging, and driving a car may be nearly impossible. Sunglasses can help by reducing the person's ability to fully see the visual space around him or her.
For example, you might sit on your couch watching television with a ceiling fan going above you. You would probably not even notice the fan. A person suffering from bilateral vestibular loss will notice it, because his or her brain is trying to take in as many visual signals as possible in order to maintain balance and spatial awareness. The movement of the fan can be enough to drive him/her crazy, even if he/she is trying to focus only on the television.
A good pair of dark sunglasses can help by providing just enough interference that the brain is not distracted by the ceiling fan. Those same sunglasses would help in a similar manner when the person is out shopping or running errands. Just by reducing visual stimulation, sunglasses can make an enormous difference.
Sunglasses Can Be a Treasure
The point of this blog post is similar to that of the other posts we published: we want to highlight the fact that some people treasure their sunglasses as more than just a fashion statement or a tool for protecting the eyes against the sun. For people with certain medical conditions, like vestibular disorders, a pair of sunglasses can be as valuable as the Pirate's load of buried treasure.
As a retailer, we encourage you to keep that in mind when serving customers who seem to have unique needs. Your average customer may be all about making a fashion statement with the latest pair of wayfarer or aviator sunglasses, but someone with a medical issue is looking beyond mere fashion. They're looking for a pair of sunglasses that will actually make their lives better.