Poor eyesight and diving

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Poor eyesight and diving

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!

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5 Comments

  1. Hi Howard and J9, hope you guys are well?

    Just a little more info regarding prescription lenses. As an example the Tusa Geminus and Aqua Lung Look 2 masks (amongst others) can accept manufacturer lenses and 3rd party stick on lenses as you’ve already mentioned.

    However they also accept 3rd party lenses that are ground to your specific prescription. Much better than stick on lenses. It is not that commonly known in Oz and NZ generally because the markets are so small in comparison to Europe for example.

    I was looking into this a couple of weeks ago for a customer in Auckland and came up with the following conclusion. It is possible to buy and get 3rd party lenses to match your exact prescription fitted to a mask in the UK, have them shipped to NZ and pay local taxes, for roughly the same price as having off the shelf lenses fitted to a mask locally. Turnaround roughly 2-3 weeks.

  2. More info from Gareth Dixon via our Facebook page:
    Be mindful that there are three types of contact lenses, hard, gas permeable and soft lenses. Your article kind of links the gas permeable and soft together. Gas permeable lebses are kind of hard lenses but allow oxygen through the lens. They are more expensive than soft but cater for a wider range of perscriptions and are really only used nowadays when the perscription is out of range for soft disposables. it is also an expensive exercise if one pops out and you lose it, whereas soft disposable lenses are cheaper to replace. Specsavers do a free fitting and trial (shameless plug) for soft disposables, so it wont cost you anything to try them. hope this info is useful!
    J9 recently posted…Poor eyesight and divingMy Profile

  3. It is still important to be able to see clearly when you are diving under water. Talk to your optometrist about certain effective options that are available if you are going to be diving under water.

  4. Eyes is important to each one of us should give extra care especially for divers and needed. Like what I read on your article you elaborate some ways on how to have a better vision for divers. Another is that we should know the symptoms of poor eyesight to avoid and prevent it and this article that I recently read http://uniquevision.ph/2014/06/symptoms-connected-poor-eyesight/

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