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ISSUE 23 ARCHIVE - HOW PRESCRIPTION LENSES HAVE REVOLUTIONISED SCUBA DIVING

Merna Daabis

Hi! I am Merna, I'm currently in Year 12. I absolutely love the sea, I'm not a diver but have purchased prescription masks in the past. I very much enjoy learning about different sea creatures through reading and watching documentaries. As a part-time employee at an opticians store, and as a glasses wearer myself, I am particularly interested in the development of prescription diving masks to allow poor-sighted individuals an equal experience to those with good/perfect vision.

A kaleidoscope of colours, floating harmoniously in the azure waters, delicately painting a motion picture, more technical and advanced than the digital and virtual world in which we live today. Some can enjoy the delights that this experience offers, whilst others struggle in the grip of a giant pacific octopus, prevented from plunging into the waters free from any restraints.

The aquatic world is a wave of exotic creatures but is also an inaccessible fort for those of us who cannot boast a PLANO prescription - more commonly known as "perfect vision".

At a time, poor vision did not only prevent individuals from seeing physically but also creatively. We may have been poor sighted in the material world and reality, but completely blind in our inner minds, unable to reach the crevices of colour and life that inspire our imagination. The same pockets of imagination that have inspired countless, prosperous animations, including our all- time favourite; Finding Nemo.

Wearing glasses is my full-time occupation, and as a great admirer of the sea like many others, I crave any opportunity to join the wondrous sea creatures in their travels. I could not let poor eyesight hinder me from that relieving and freeing underwater experience, so I hunted around and found that the solution came swimming to me. To overcome my visual impediment, what could work better than a pair of prescription masks?

Prescription masks have come far over the years, and have revolutionised the aquatic experience of many. From bonding lenses, to drop-in lenses, to simply contact lenses and finally, although I am certain this will not be the end to this procession of visual advancements, prescription lenses. Prescription masks have a split-face plate and are ground to the same prescription as ordinary glasses, designed by optometrists to allow divers safe, underwater vision. The cost of prescription masks varies depending on the quality, type of mask and surely, the size of the prescription. A range between 50 and 150 can be the value of such a mask, so they are a costly investment, but are they worthwhile?

Many question whether the cost and quality is worth it, whether eternal lens defogging is practical in the world of water and whether the experience is the same.

Here is my point of view, while prescription masks are considerably more expensive than regular diving masks, there are ways to overcome this. For example, the use of contact lenses paired with a tempered glass mask can prove to be a more cost effective method, although it does bear an increased risk to the health of the eyes and can be dangerous if the contact lenses become dislodged, tear or move unanticipatedly during the diving experience.

An alternative method, closer to that of prescription lenses, is drop-in lenses that are available in half-diopter increments: the most common visual requirements. It can be described as a generic pair of lenses with a prescription that is close to the spherical equivalent of the glasses prescription. It's practical for one-off diving experiences, but will not perfectly correct vision, so professional and occupational divers may find it difficult to come to terms with this reality. Also, it cannot correct extreme astigmatism and cannot include bifocals, varifocals or prism.

All in all, prescription masks can enhance a diver's underwater experience and has made the beautiful, and not yet completely discovered underwater magic accessible to more people. So, with this revolutionary advancement, no-one should say 'I can't quite SEA it'.

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