Researchers recognise benefits of eyewear for more than just helping people to see
Researchers are developing revolutionary new glasses that could help people hear better, improve sleep patterns and even reduce depression.
Dr Frank Eperjesi, head of optometry at Aston University in Birmingham, says the industry is beginning to realise the potential of eyeglasses to do more than just enhance the sight of wearers.
He said: “It is only recently that researchers have started to realise that there may be more to wearing glasses than simply having better eyesight.
It is only recently that researchers have started to realise that there may be more to wearing glasses than simply having better eyesight
“A better understanding of our visual system and how it relates to other parts of the body, in particular the brain, coupled with the development of lightweight materials, has led to a range of smart specs that can be used to help detect and treat a range of health problems.
“As more developments take place over the next few years, and prices drop, we can expect to see more people wearing glasses for reasons other than better vision.”
Scientists have already developed emPowers, battery-powered varifocal glasses that automatically know when the wearer wants to read close up or look into the distance and adjusts the strength of the lenses accordingly.
Manufactured by PixelOptics, the innovative glasses cost £800, but it is hoped that the more common they become, the cheaper they will be for people to buy.
Other developments include glasses containing tiny microphones on each arm that can help people to hear by picking up the sound from the direction in which the wearer is looking, while reducing the surrounding noise. This helps to make speech more understandable and allows those who are hard of hearing to distinguish talking from background noise.
The glasses, made by Varibel, have already been trialled in The Netherlands where 91% of people preferred them to their usual hearing aid. They currently cost £1,700.
It is also thought that glasses can be used to improve general wellbeing, with researchers having invented a device that is a cross between glasses and a sun visor containing eight small bulbs that bathe the eyes in white light. Light therapy can be used for a number of conditions such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and depression as it is thought white light boosts the production of feelgood chemicals in the brain.
A better understanding of our visual system and how it relates to other parts of the body, in particular the brain, coupled with the development of lightweight materials, has led to a range of smart specs that can be used to help detect and treat a range of health problems
The glasses, known as Luminette and manufactured by Lucimed, cost around £200 and in trials have been found to reduce SAD symptoms.
And there is even a pair of glasses known as ‘vampire specs’ which use tinted lenses to enhance the colour of blood beneath the skin, making it more visible to doctors.
Designed to be worn by medics, the glasses, by 2AI Labs, show how much oxygen is in the blood and, in one case, helped doctors to see bruising on a car crash victim that was invisible to the naked eye.
Dr Eperjesi said: “The science behind these lenses indicates a use for medical emergencies and parts of the world with poorly-developed healthcare systems.”
Other eyewear currently in development around the world includes Re-Timer glasses by researchers at Flinders University in Australia, which are designed to counter the effects of jetlag by shining green light into the eyes to help control a person’s body clock; and glasses that could help people to overcome vertigo by creating a mark in the wearer’s peripheral vision to ease dizziness.