Are you new to diving? Perhaps you have less than perfect eyesight? Are you wondering what your options are for seeing underwater or indeed whether you can dive at all with less than perfect eyesight? If so, read on!
Why do I need to be able to see clearly underwater?
Of course, one of the primary reasons why we dive is to see things! If your vision is not perfect, then this may well impact your levels of enjoyment whilst diving. Quite simply, you will see less.
More importantly however, it is essential that you are able to read your gauges, your computer and see your buddy whilst diving for obvious safety reasons.
Corrective vision options for diving
In terms of corrective vision, if you suffer from only mild near or farsightedness, you will probably find that you may not require any correction for diving at all. Refraction of light in water passing through your mask glass and into the mask air space naturally results in items becoming magnified. You will learn on your Openwater course that objects appear 25% closer and 33% larger under water than they do in air.
Diving in contact lenses
If your vision is less than mildly imperfect, you should consider your corrective options to ensure that you get the most from your underwater experiences and ensure your safety.
Many divers wear contact lenses whilst diving and this is perfectly safe assuming that the lenses are gas permeable and that your optometrist has not advised otherwise. Be prepared however, that if you flood your mask, you risk losing a lens, so carrying a spare set of lenses when diving is advisable.
Hard versus soft contact lenses and diving
Hard lenses are generally not gas permeable and as a result, suction may occur on the eye as the diver experiences increased pressure at depth. This may lead to the diver experiencing discomfort. In addition, hard lenses may cause blurry vision, as air bubbles may form between the eye and the lens. For these reasons, hard lenses are not recommended for diving.
Soft lenses are gas permeable and so bubble formation on the lens or suction issues do not exist. It is for this reason that soft lenses are recommended for diving over hard lenses.
When performing mask removal and mask flood skills during training, a diver wearing contact lenses may prefer to keep their eyes closed to minimise the risk of lens displacement. For this reason, you should inform your instructor that you are wearing lenses (and your buddy) prior to the dive.
Corrective lenses in dive masks
If you do not normally wear contact lenses, corrective mask lenses are another option available to you. Many dive shops will carry a range of corrective lenses in both plus and minus prescriptions in 0.5 diopter increments. These lenses are pre-cut for a particular mask model that will usually have a split screen option to allow for different prescriptions to be fitted independently for each eye. An experienced sales assistant will be able to fit such lens in a matter of minutes.
As always, the most important consideration for a dive mask should be fit. For tips on how to choose the right mask, click here. The mask should be comfortable, sit well and seal all around your face without pressing in. With fit in mind, given the limited number of masks that pre-cut prescriptive lenses can be fitted to, you will need to be satisfied that the particular mask is a good fit for you and meets your requirements.
If you are unable to find a suitably fitting mask that accommodates pre-cut prescriptive lenses, you will need to have your prescription put into your mask by an optician. This is done by bonding lenses into your perfectly fitted mask. This method is the most costly option for correction, however, is a good option for people with astigmatism, significant far sightedness or fit concerns. Stick-in bi-focal options are also possible here as a cheaper alternative. Bear in mind that this option is prone to collecting a build up of dirt around the gap between the bi-focal lens and the mask lens.
Magnifying glasses and diving
Commonly divers, particularly those with a passion for macro subjects use a magnifying glass when diving. This may sound strange, however a small magnifying lens can easily be stored in a divers BCD pocket and be taken out when needed. Magnifying lenses are useful for looking at the detail on small macro subjects that would not normally be obvious to the naked eye!
Final message for divers with poor eyesight
So if you have less than perfect eyesight, this does not have to pose a concern for you as a diver. With careful selection of the best corrective solution for you, there should be nothing stopping you from seeing what the underwater world has to offer.
Do you have less than perfect vision and dive? DiveBuzz would love you to share your stories and insights on diving with contact lenses or corrective lenses!