Meghan Hindley experiences what it's like to suffer from hearing and sight loss on a town centre shopping trip and learns how important it is to seek immediate help for potential sensory problems.

I don't think we really realise the importance of our senses.

Having all our senses is often something taken for granted and losing just one of them can dramatically change our lives.
With this in mind, I was given a glimpse into the life of a person who is both deaf and blind.

I met with Mark Hayles, store director of Specsavers in Weymouth during Deafblind Awareness Week, which took place earlier this summer.

Mark, along with a team of audiologists and opticians from Weymouth, are championing the importance of caring for our senses.

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The charity Deaf Blind UK estimates that combined sight and hearing loss affects nearly 394,000 people in the UK. Nearly six million people live with sight-threatening conditions and one in six people have hearing problems.

In Dorset, dual sensory loss affects 3,724 individuals - 2,409 people are registered blind or partially sighted, and 61,224 individuals have a moderate to severe hearing impairment.

Despite these statistics, many of us are not making our hearing and vision health a priority. 

Eager to change this, Mark invited me to Specsavers on St Thomas Street in Weymouth to experience a glimpse into the lives of those who are visually and hearing impaired.

To do this I was given a pair of glasses that impaired my vision, as well as well as a pair of ear moulds to impair my hearing. 

I was then challenged to try and complete simple tasks that people take for granted every day.

With the assistance of Mark, I was challenged to walk down the high street and withdraw money from the bank - an incredibly simple task, right? Wrong. My vision was blurred and I struggled to see things more than a few feet away from me, as well as also struggling to hear my surroundings.

Despite not being completely blind, it was quite a scary experience - I missed a few kerbs and even bumped into a child.

On arriving at the bank I struggled to see the number pad and type my pin number in. It was also incredibly difficult to see the screen properly.

In just this short space of time, the importance of our senses hit me. The challenges that people who are visually or hearing impaired must face on a daily basis must be never-ending.

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And so many people are losing senses every year - but a lot of it could be prevented it they attended regular check-ups at our opticians. Our overall health and any underlining problems can be discovered by our opticians - something which I think people underestimate. 

Mark said: "A quarter of people are still not having an eye test every two years, as recommended by the College of Optometrists and the same percentage are ignoring the first signs of sight loss, despite not being able to see as well in the distance or close up as they used to.

The extent of the problem means it is highly likely that every family in Weymouth is touched by sight problems in some way.

"When it comes to our hearing, research shows that, on average, people wait around 10 years to seek help for hearing loss after first noticing a problem. This is a huge amount of time for someone to struggle with their hearing, especially when you consider that people with hearing loss are more likely to suffer with depression and develop dementia."

Mark explained that optical advancements have dramatically. Digital retina photography now allows the team to take an image of the back of the eye to check its health and any changes that could be early indicators of preventable sight loss conditions, or more serious conditions such as a brain tumour.

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Mark said: "We recently had a gentleman come in who was suffering from bad headaches. His wife was a nurse and encouraged him to come to us.

"On completing an eye check we concluded that something wasn't right. He was immediately sent to Dorset County Hospital where it was discovered that he had a brain tumour.

"The tumour was then removed and the man is now recovering at home. This is how important is is to have regular eye check-ups."

Mark added: "The digital retina photography will be available in Weymouth's Specsavers and everyone should be taking full advantage of it. We recommend that everyone should have an eye test every two years and over 55s a hearing check every two years. 

"Our senses are precious, so let’s give them the TLC they deserve."