Special Senses

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Nov. 19, 2012

Special Senses

Through out your lifetime you have experienced the world through your senses – sight, sound, taste, smell, touch – or more accurately your special senses which include Vision, Audition, Equilibrium, Olfaction, and Gustation. After you have lived awhile your body changes so it should be no surprise that your ability to sense and perceive the world would change as well.

Through senses that perceive light, sound, and smell, you gain so much information about your surroundings. That information is switched into nerve impulses and carried to the brain. There, is it interpreted as a message that can be consciously understood. The brain needs only a small amount of stimulus before it recognizes a sensation. As you age, the amount of stimulus needed increases. Audition and Vision are usually the two that change the most.

Your ears serve two capacities: hearing and balance. As you age, parts of the ears lose some of their functioning capabilities making it more difficult to hear and maintain proper balance. Older adults have trouble registering high-pitched sounds which is part of the normal age-related hearing loss. Ear wax becomes dried out with age and is more likely to be impacted and can affect hearing as well. It becomes less sharp around fifty and decreases second most as you age.

Vision is the second most affected sense. Aged eyes produce less tears causing dry eye which can lead to injury of cornea. The pupil dilation/constriction response slows with age, making it difficult to respond to bright light or darkness. The lens that focuses images, becomes less flexible leading to farsightedness. Eye movement may be affected since muscles lose their tone. Nerve cells in the retina may die off, causing blurry edged vision. Cataract of the eye or macular degeneration, are more common as with aging as the structure of the eye changes.

Gustation and Olfaction are intertwined senses. As you taste something, you...
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