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Strategies for Everyday Life
with Macular Degeneration

On this page, you will find the following:

Improving Other Senses

Hearing Better

Listening to books on tape and CDs, and using listening skills more may seem difficult at first, but will become easier over time. After an initial period of adjustment, most people with low vision are surprised to find out how much information they can obtain from their senses of hearing, touch and even smell.

Listening more means remembering more. Most people never fully develop the ability to remember what they hear because there is no need. Improving listening skills means giving full attention to what is heard rather than dividing attention between what is seen and what is heard. Those with low vision may still receive visual cues from eyesight, but most of their attention will now need to be shifted to listening. As people grow more accustomed to listening to books, newspapers and magazines on tape and CDs, and working with screen-reader software, gradually more of what is heard will be remembered.

People can learn to “tune in to” their sense of hearing in many practical ways that will assist in daily activities. For example, learning to locate the sound of the hum of the refrigerator can signal you are entering the kitchen; or the sound of cars and other outside street noises will indicate an open window and its location.

Using Touch

Those with low vision can also learn to rely more on the sense of touch in many practical ways. Selecting clothes from the closet, for example, will be easier if a person focuses on the textures of fabrics and associates them with mental pictures of certain garments.

When there is severe vision loss, using a cane or walker outdoors allows an individual to use the sense of touch to get more information about the environment. These “feelers” will help detect changes in the pavement, the closeness of objects and the presence of stairs. Even without a cane or walker, using the feet to feel the way, especially when climbing or descending stairs, can augment diminished vision and prevent dangerous falls.

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Using Peripheral Vision

People spend a lifetime depending primarily on central vision, and this habit can be hard to break. However, for those with macular degeneration, their best vision probably lies somewhere in the peripheral area of sight. Individuals with macular degeneration must make a conscious effort to locate this area and use it as fully as possible.

To find the best area of peripheral vision, place a brightly colored object directly in front of the eyes. Face the object and look up, down, left and right. After practicing a few times, a person with macular degeneration will likely find a spot in the peripheral area that is less fuzzy than the rest of the field. Once located, it will take practice to learn to “favor” this area. The head may need to be turned slightly away from the object to be seen, and this will feel unnatural at first.

In the beginning, practice using peripheral vision for several minutes at different times of each day, resting the eyes between each interval. It takes time to learn to see with peripheral vision, but if practiced consistently, this new way of looking will become habitual.

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Protection from the Sun

While excessive exposure to sunlight has not been proven to be a cause of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), some research indicates that cumulative amounts of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun may be linked to an increased risk of developing the disease. UV radiation is composed of invisible, high-energy, sunlight just beyond the violet or blue end of the visible spectrum. It is usually divided into three categories of radiation, UV-C, UV-B and UV-A. UV-C radiation is absorbed in the ozone layer, but UV-A and UV-B are damaging to skin and eyes.

To protect eyesight, physicians recommend sunglasses that block 98-100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B rays and screen out 75-90 percent of visible light. Sunglasses don't have to be expensive, but they should be properly labeled. Those that meet minimum standards established by the American Optometric Association (AOA) can use the AOA seal of acceptance. The best sunglasses are those that completely cover the eye and eyelids, and wrap around to the temples to prevent light from entering the sides.

Brimmed hats provide additional protection. Those with macular degeneration should wear eye protection each time they go outside, even for a short period of time.

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Ways to Make Life Easier

Dealing with any loss of vision isn't easy, but there are a variety of physical and psychological ways people with AMD and their families can adjust to “a new way of seeing.”

  • Consult a low vision therapist who can make personalized recommendations for daily living activities. More information can be found on our website.
  • Consider using low vision aids. More information can be found on our website.

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Further Information

You may also want to read the information we have on adjusting the home

The following publications from BrightFocus can provide you with more information:

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Last Review: 08/23/13

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