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Music

#SeeTheMusic and More – Myopia and performing artists

Myopia and the performing arts professional

In response to our Webinar with BAPAM and the Royal Society of Musicians of Great Britain on the subject of sustaining musical careers, we have decided to post a series of blogs focusing on performing arts eye care. 

As the UK’s only performing arts eye care specialists, we know first-hand how eye disorders can have a detrimental effect on a professional’s career. This series of blogs will highlight the common eye condition which can seriously affect performing arts professionals. From Musicians to Presenters, Dancers to Camera Operators, Sound Technicians to Singers, the list of performing arts professionals who we have helped to see the music and more, is extensive and varied.

Most vision problems are caused by refractive errors. Sixty-one percent of those in the UK have vision problems requiring some form of corrective action, with just over 10 percent using contact lenses regularly, and over half wearing glasses. 

The four most common types of refractive error are:
  • Myopia or Short-sightedness. Myopia results from light focusing just short of the retina due to the cornea or the eyeball being too long.
  • Hyperopia or Long-sightedness. Generally, hyperopia is a result of the eyeball being too short from front to back, or of problems with the shape of the cornea, (the top clear layer of the eye), or lens (the part of the eye that helps the eye to focus).
  • Presbyopia or Old Sight. Presbyopia is caused by a hardening of the eyes crystalline lens, which occurs with ageing. As our lenses become less flexible, they can no longer change shape to focus on close-up images.
  • Astigmatism or rugby ball-shaped eyes. Astigmatism causes blurred distance and near vision due to a curvature abnormality in the eye. A person with astigmatism either has an irregular corneal surface or a lens inside the eye that has mismatched curves. 

Myopia: Perspectives and challenges

In this blog, we look at how myopia affects the performing arts professional and how we can resolve this refractive error effectively.

For a performer or performing arts professional a refractive error, eye disease and disorders can have a catastrophic impact on their career. For those working in production, there are many different visual demands. The production control room requires members of the production team to view multiple screens on the video monitor wall. In addition, the team follows a script and or running order and often a musical score. Focal distances can range from infinity to 30cm. In a fast-paced environment such as this, the challenge of focusing at multiple distances can be a problem.

For the musician and performer too, Myopia can present a challenge, from seeing the music on the stand, seeing the conductor, audience, the soloist and other sections of the ensemble. For the myopic musician, the conductor can often be a little blurred and in more extreme cases the sheet music on the stand can appear blurred.

#SeeTheMusic and more

As specialists in the field of performing arts eye care, we are frequently asked “What’s so special about musicians’ eyes?”. In short, there is nothing special about their eyes, but the way a performer uses their vision is. Musicians, performers and performing arts professionals are very much like athletes. 

Good vision skills are necessary for most sports, both competitive and non-competitive, and different sports have specific requirements. The same is true for most performing arts professionals and amateur performers. With the help of advanced vision testing equipment, the team at Allegro Optical have developed detailed assessments of vision skills for performers and performing art professionals of all ages.

So, we hear you asking, “What special vision requirements does a performer need?” Well, it’s one or more of the following skills on display:

  • Vision Focusing: The ability to change focus quickly and accurately between objects at different distances. For example, a musician needs to read the music on the stand, look at their conductor and other sections of the ensemble all at different distances clearly and accurately.
  • Vision fixation: The ability to read sheet music, often at a fast tempo, no matter how fast it’s moving.
  • Peripheral vision: The ability to see and observe out of the corner of your eye when looking at a fixed object such as sheet music on the stand. In an orchestra, a player must be able to see both their stand partner or another member of their section even when they may be unable to alter their head position due to their instrument.
  • Focusing regulation: The ability to retain eye coordination during high-speed activities or while under high physiological pressure.

Effective treatment of Myopia

Spectacles

When wearing spectacles, myopia presents unique challenges, as peripheral vision is often impaired. The disadvantages of spectacles for myopia correction include reduced retinal image size, peripheral distortion, and a reduced effective field of vision. All of which presents the performer with performance-limiting challenges.

Thinned lenses are popular among myopic spectacle wearers who aim to improve the appearance of their glasses. Nevertheless, the denser lens materials can produce unwanted chromatic aberration.  Chromatic aberration occurs when a lens is unable to focus all colours onto the same focal point, causing distortion of the image.  In turn, this causes the perception of undesirable colour fringes. 

Contact lenses

Contact lenses provide a viable alternative correction of myopic errors where spectacle wear can be a hindrance. Performers often choose contact lenses over glasses because they’re lightweight and almost invisible, but some find them uncomfortable or more of a hassle. Also wearing contact lenses for long periods of time and in dry and warm environments, such as on stage, can also exacerbate dry eyes. Symptoms of dry eyes are most frequent toward the end of the day, when patients experience the most symptoms. Unfortunately, this tends to coincide with most musicians’ performances, which are often late in the evening. Dry eye can lead to blurred patches of vision, making sight-reading problematic, particularly for the freelance or session musician.

Laser eye surgery

During laser eye surgery, small sections of your cornea are burned away to create a more focused beam of light on your retina.

Laser eye surgery can be divided into three main types:

Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK)involves the removal of a small amount of corneal tissue and reshaping the cornea using a laser to remove tissue and change its shape

Laser epithelial keratomileusis (LASEK) is similar to PRK, but involves using alcohol to soften the corneal surface to facilitate the removal of a flap of tissue and repositioning it afterwards, while a laser is used to change the shape of the cornea.

Laser in situ keratoplasty (LASIK) – similar to LASEK, except that a smaller corneal flap is created

In most cases, these procedures are performed on an outpatient basis. Local anaesthesia is used to numb your eyes while the procedure is performed, which usually takes less than 30 minutes

LASEK or LASIK are usually the preferred methods because they are virtually painless, and you will usually be able to see them again within a few hours or days. However, it may take a month for your vision to fully stabilise.

Lens implant surgery

Another viable treatment for short-sightedness is lens implant surgery. The procedure involves implanting an artificial lens into your eye through a small incision in the cornea.

The lenses are specially designed to focus light more clearly onto the retina.

People who are very short-sighted or who have difficulty wearing glasses or contact lenses can benefit from this procedure.

Lens implants fall into two categories:

Phakic implants are artificial lenses that are placed into your eye without removing your natural lens; they are generally preferred by younger people with normal natural reading vision

Refractive lens exchange (RLE) is the surgical removal of the natural lens and replacement with an artificial one, similar to cataract surgery.

The implants are typically inserted under a local anaesthetic and you can usually leave the hospital the same day. Each eye is usually treated separately.

Can myopia get better?

As children grow, myopia tends to worsen.

Myopia worsens as people age, usually faster and more rapidly when they are young, than in adulthood.

When you reach the age of 20 or so, myopia usually ceases to worsen.

As of now, no single treatment appears to be able to stop this progression.

Treatments involving eye drops containing atropine or special contact lenses may slow the progression.

According to research, atropine eye drops can slow the progression of myopia, but may cause side effects at high concentrations (such as trouble reading and sensitivity to bright light).

In the UK, low-strength drops are not commercially available.

In Summary

All the above treatments offer potential solutions for performing arts professionals and amateurs. However all the above do have limitations and side effects. As performers ourselves we are able to provide balanced and impartial advice from a unique perspective.

We have a  team of optical professionals who understand the demands of professional musicians. By working together our teams of dispensing opticians and optometrists are able to assist musicians in overcoming these difficulties so that their working and playing lives can be improved.

Many myopic musicians are unaware of the many solutions to their vision problems. Now thanks to our specialised performing arts eye exams, our optometrists’ broad knowledge, our cutting edge dispensing procedures and unique lenses these problems can be overcome.”

Contact: To find out more about Allegro Optical, the musicians’ opticians go to; https://allegrooptical.co.uk/services/musicians-optical-services/

Alternatively call Greenfield 01457 353100 or Meltham 01484 907090  

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About Allegro

Vision, Music and Movement in Perfect Harmony

Ballet Dancer and Optician form Harmonious Bond

Contemporary dancer turned movement practitioner Sam McCormick of Curel CIC discovered Allegro Optical through a Business Network International training course. BNI is a business network with chapters the world over, and Sam and Allegro Optical are both members.
Sam started chatting with our Managing Director Sheryl while on the course. We arranged to meet a week or so later to see if there was a way our two businesses could work together.
Ballet Dancer Sam Lackford / McCormick buys her glasses and contact lenses from Allegro Optical Opticians in Meltham We were thinking maybe we could help Sam with our corporate eyecare connections. Curel delivers movement-based activities to help people live healthy and happy lives and one area they specialise in is workplace wellbeing, alongside team building sessions and engagement activities. We saw this as something our corporate eyecare clients might be interested in. Most of our corporate clients are very focused on employee wellbeing. We were sure Curel could provide them with a fantastic service while reducing absences and improving morale. Saving our clients time and money.

A clear vision

It was during this first meeting that Sam mentioned that she was having problems with her contact lenses. Sam is a very active lady, in addition to being the co-founder of Curel she is an independent dance artist. She is also Head of Dance for Flamingo Chicks, an inclusive dance school that provides opportunities for disabled children to enjoy ballet alongside their friends. As if that’s not enough Sam is an Associate Artist for English National Ballet, and she teaches at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds. So as you can see she is very busy and as result spectacles aren’t really an option. So Sheryl suggested that Sam come to the practice for a consultation.

Ballet Dancer Sam Lackford / McCormick buys her glasses and contact lenses from Allegro Optical Opticians in Meltham

Sam visited Allegro Optical in Meltham and we carried out a sight test and contact lens check-up. We found a large increase in Sam’s prescription, particularly her astigmatism. Sam’s astigmatism had increased so much she was now out of the range for standard and toric (astigmatic) lenses. We had no option than to source the bespoke soft contact lenses for her. Sam collected them a few weeks later and tried them for a fortnight when she returned to the practice. Sam was very happy with her vision in the lenses but felt her eyes were a little dry. As with all yearly soft lens they are slightly thicker than a regular silicone hydrogel lens. We resolved the comfort issue by using lubricants and changing Sams contact lens solution.

A perfect partnership

Thanks to the improvement to her vision provided by her new contact lenses and their extended wear time Sam can now get on with her busy life without worrying about her eyesight. She has also invested in a fabulous pair of glasses for contact lens rest days.  With frames from our FYSH range from Denmark and high index free-form single vision lenses Sam’s vision is now fully corrected. She also has a gorgeous pair of prescription sunglasses thanks to our amazing free second pair offer, now Sam is ready for anything. When asked about her experience with Allegro Optical Sam said “Huge thank you to Allegro Optical for your help sorting my contact lenses and finding me some lovely new glasses! Will be recommending you!” Ballet Dancer Sam Lackford / McCormick buys her glasses and contact lenses from Allegro Optical Opticians in Meltham While all this was going on Sam and Sheryl also got to know each other’s businesses very well. As a result, we now always recommend Curel to our corporate eyecare clients to help them, help their teams reduce stress and sickness in the workplace.
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News

When A Medical Condition Threatens A Musicians’ Passion

What can you do when your whole career is threatened by a medical condition?

When a musician suffers a medically threatening condition, no one realises what it means to potentially lose that vital part of your life your passion, your very being. ClassicFM has a heart moving blog all about one musicians’ battle with a painful neuromuscular condition which disrupted her career as a musician. Cor anglais player Davida Scheffers gave an emotional performance of ‘Schindler’s List’.  Despite her fear that she might never be able to play with a professional orchestra again, Davida’s dream was to play with the Netherlands Symphony Orchestra. Last year, she managed it, read more at http://www.classicfm.com/music-news/videos/soloist-cries-in-schindlers-list/

Presbyopia and the musician

While we accept that ageing vision, or Presbyopia as it is known, is nowhere near as serious a condition it can threaten many musicians careers. Presbyopia is a form of progressive long-sightedness caused by the loss of elasticity of the lens of the eye, occurring typically in middle and old age. Very few of us will escape presbyopia, even if you have never had a vision problem before. Even people who are short-sighted will notice that their near vision blurs when they wear their usual spectacles or contact lenses to correct their distance vision. This can be problematic for a musician who will find their vision at the music stand distance severely compromised. Up until now, there have been no completely satisfactory solutions available to the musician. Some Opticians prescribe varifocals, however, the area of the lens for music stand is much to narrow. Even in the new freeform digital lenses, it’s a real compromise, forget sharing a stand! Some Opticians will suggest Computer or Office lenses, however, if you play in an orchestra you won’t be able to see your conductor clearly.

At Allegro Optical Opticians we specialise in helping presbyopic and older musicians to see the music.

As musicians ourselves we understand the many visual requirements placed on musicians. As a result, we have developed a selection of lenses designed and dispensed specifically to suit individual musicians needs. Creating a solution especially for the client, providing a perfect optical solution. We understand the variety of dispensing challenges that practitioners may face when a musician presents in practice, but as musicians ourselves we are able to meet their individual needs perfectly. If you are a musician who has problems seeing the music give us a call at Allegro Optical Opticians on 01484 907090 for advice or to book a consultation.
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About Allegro Music News

Clearly Harping on

Meltham’s Musician’s Optician

It wasn’t long after we had opened our practice in Meltham, near Huddersfield and Holmfirth, that Rhian Evans walked through our door. A friend had told her about our new optician practice and that we specialised in helping musicians. Professional Harpist Rhian explained that she had been experiencing focusing problems when performing. It is the close proximity of the strings of her harp and the more distant position of the music stand that was causing her problems Rhian Evans Harpist Musicians glasses Allegro Optical Rhian needed to see the high-pitched strings immediately to her right at a distance of just 23 cm. Her music stand, however, is 95cm to her left, and the conductor usually 5 meters away directly in front of her.

A creative solution

Rhian had been struggling with 2 pairs of single vision glasses for distance and near. We dispensed a pair of adapted progressive lenses with a compensated orientation to take into account Rhian’s working distances and head position. The lenses were mounted into a rimless frame to be less conspicuous on stage. We used a high index lens for durability, with an anti-reflective coating to improve vision, reduce glare and improve the cosmetic appearance of the lenses. Rhian collected her spectacles two weeks later. As with all progressive lenses, there was a period of adaptation, but as with all things, practice makes perfect.

An excellent performance from the musician’s lenses

Rhian Evans professional harpist musicians lenses Allegro optical the musicians optician Rhian said “From the moment I walked into Allegro Optical I knew I would be dealt with efficiently and professionally. The shop itself is well equipped whilst retaining a reassuring intimacy, and all the staff are welcoming and friendly. Sheryl was very thorough and asked all the right questions regarding my specific vision issues. When I received my new glasses, the first thing I noticed was the weight of the frames,  they’re as light as a feather! I was less concerned with the cosmetic appearance of my glasses but I acknowledge that they are very discreet. Rhian Harpist After initially experiencing some difficulty focusing on my printed sheet music, both at home and in my performance work, I returned to Sheryl. After some discussion, she decided on a solution to my problems. I have now tested my new glasses in both rehearsal and concert situations and I am delighted with the results. No more stooping down to focus on the dots and then lifting my head to see the conductor. After 2 years of wearing badly fitting frames in order to compensate for my specific issues, I can feel my confidence returning. I would highly recommend a visit to Allegro Optical to any musician seeking a solution to their vision problems. Sheryl and her team will do everything they can to help.”