For those of us who can swim, it is likely that we have experienced the cloudy underwater world of the sea or swimming pool! Some people may find this disturbing, while others pay little attention, but the question remains – just why does our eyesight change?
The answers lie in a combination of science and our lifestyle habits. Read on to discover the causes, and how you can drastically improve your underwater eyesight.
The Underwater Experience
In our normal land-based environment, the corneal surfaces of our eyes are responsible for 66% of the eyes power, and manage how light affects our vision. When we swim underwater, the outside air is lost and replaced by water, meaning this ability is severely affected. The result is blurry vision that makes it difficult to see clearly.
To further compound this, swimming underwater in the sea without goggles will likely result in some degree of salt irritation, while the chlorine in swimming pools can cause chemical conjunctivitis. Both situations result in similar symptoms:
- teary eyes
- disturbance in vision
Thankfully, these adverse affects are temporary and will resolve easily by flushing the eyes with cold water, or by using eye drops.
Amazing Sea Gypsies
Unlike most humans, the child sea gypsies of Thailand have remarkable underwater vision that helps them to hunt for food, and retrieve shells and clams from the sea bed. Their ability to see underwater is twice as good as that of an average European child, and they do not suffer from any form of eye irritation or discomfort.
So what makes these children’s vision so good?
Over time, their eyes have simply evolved based on their survival needs and lifestyle. While swimming, their pupil size constricts, improving eyesight clarity. In effect, their eyes act like a pinhole camera!
Can Our Underwater Vision Be Improved?
Researchers have spent a long time studying the Moken gypsy children to try and decipher what, if anything, we could learn from their unusual ability. This prompted scientists to conduct an experiment, and test whether European children could be trained to enhance their own underwater eyesight.
The answer quickly became apparent. Underwater vision can be rapidly improved!
After only 11 sessions over the the course of 33 days, the European children had a drastic change in their underwater eyesight. Interestingly, this benefit continued long after their last session in the water – 8 months later, they still possessed underwater vision that was on a par with the Moken children!
Amazingly, even after this short period of training, it was shown that eyes become increasingly accustomed to the underwater environment, and pupils learn to constrict, resulting in much clearer vision. Some eye irritation did occur, but it is possible that with further training this may reduce.
While it may be attractive to try and obtain an instant enhancement in vision, resist the temptation to wear contact lenses while swimming. Both the sea and swimming pools are breeding grounds for different types of bacteria and parasites that can easily attach to a contact lens. This could lead to severe eye infections and possible sight loss!
Laser eye surgery allows you to regain 20/20 vision without contact lenses and would serve as a good basis for further improving your underwater eyesight.
There are also some tech options to add vibrancy to your swimming sessions. A virtual reality underwater headset is being developed, while military grade goggles allow you to have night vision as you crawl along the ocean floor!