Eye tests and hearing checks


Problems with your eyesight or hearing can make you more likely to have a fall. Changes in your eyesight and hearing can be linked to your age or medical conditions.

Having good eyesight helps to avoid falls. Regular eye tests can find conditions that might put you more at risk of falling.

Hearing changes can affect the balance centre in your inner ear and make you more likely to fall. It's important to tell a GP about any hearing problems.

Eye tests

Eye tests are free for people over the age of 60.

Make sure that your eyesight is tested regularly, even if you think it is fine.

  • If you are over 70 years old, you need to have your eyes tested every year.
  • If you are under 70 years old, you need to have your eyes tested every 2 years.

Opticians do not only test your eyesight to find out if you need glasses. They also check the general health of your eyes and look for early signs of any conditions.

If you notice any changes, it's important to have an eye test.

Eyesight changes can include:

  • double vision
  • partial or total blindness
  • colour blindness
  • blurred vision
  • circles of light around objects (halos)
  • eye pain or discomfort
  • difficulty seeing the edge of steps (decreased contrast sensitivity)
  • difficulty judging the distance between 2 objects, such as a jug of water and the glass (altered depth perception)

Common eye conditions

Some eye conditions are common in later life. They could cause changes to your eyesight.

Your risk of falling can increase if your vision is affected in one or both eyes. Your optician can explain how the changes in your vision may affect your walking and balance.

  • Cataracts. A cataract is when the small transparent disc called the lens inside your eye becomes cloudy.
  • Macular degeneration. This condition causes problems with your central vision.
  • Glaucoma. This is when the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, gets damaged. It is usually caused by a build-up of fluid, which increases pressure in the eye. Glaucoma can eventually cause tunnel vision (when you can only see what is directly in front of you).
  • Diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the eye. This can cause patchy or blurred vision, or loss of central vision.

If you buy ready-made reading glasses from a pharmacy or shop, you should only use them temporarily.

How to get an eye test

Some people can have a home eye test. The optician comes to visit you in your own home, a care home or a day centre. This is useful if you cannot leave your home or have problems moving around.

Specsavers does home eye tests for free. Phone 0808 239 7130

Homesight offers free NHS eye tests at home. Phone 0800 080 6095 or email [email protected]

Make sure that your sunglasses have ultraviolet (UV) protection. This helps to reduce sun damage to your eyes.

Wearing new glasses

Wearing new glasses especially bifocal or varifocal lenses can increase your risk of falling. You can talk to your optician about the best lens choices for you and any concerns you have about falling.

Hearing checks

If you have hearing problems, tell your GP. There might be a simple explanation, such as wax build-up or an infection that can be treated.

Your GP might refer you to an audiology (hearing) clinic or specialist ear department.

The Royal National Institute for Deafness (RNID) has a free online hearing check. It is not a full hearing check, but gives you an idea if you have hearing loss. The test takes about 3 minutes.

Changes in your hearing can be caused by:

  • ear infections
  • the side effects of certain medicines (such as high doses of aspirin and some antibiotics)
  • exposure to loud noise
  • a head injury
  • infections like mumps or meningitis
  • a build-up of wax

Hearing aids

Hearing aids make sounds louder and can remove some background noise. There are different types of hearing aids. Your hearing specialist (audiologist) can tell you which type suits your needs.

Hearing aids are available for free on the NHS, but only if your hearing specialist recommends them for you. You can also buy hearing aids privately.

Information and support

There is information about the help and support available for eyesight and hearing loss on the Southwark Council website.

Information and support for eyesight loss

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is a charity for people with eyesight loss or who are partially sighted. You can call their helpline on 0303 123 9999 (weekdays, 8am to 8pm and Saturdays, 9am to 1pm).

Your local library can direct you to talking newspapers, magazines and books.

You can get more information and find out about local support from:

Information and support for hearing loss

You can go to lip-reading classes. Ask your local library or the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) if there's a class in your area, or visit the Association of Teachers of Lipreading to Adults (ATLA) website.

Hearing aids can help you if your hearing specialist (audiologist) recommends them. Other equipment can help you at home. This could include vibrating pads or flashing lights to tell you when the doorbell rings.

Your local social services can loan you equipment to help with hearing loss. Otherwise, RNID can tell you where you can buy this equipment yourself. Visit the RNID website, call 0808 808 0123 (Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm) or email: [email protected]

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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