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Jamie N T Enoch, Leanne McDonald, Lee Jones, Pete R Jones, David P Crabb; Sight: the most valuable sense?. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2019;60(9):1763.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
While the impact of sight loss has been studied in relation to other chronic health conditions, the importance of sight relative to other senses has not been systematically investigated. We performed a cross-sectional web-based study, to determine the value of sight relative to other senses and to quantify concerns regarding sight and hearing loss in particular.
This survey sampled 250 UK adults (median (range) age: 50 (22-80) years). Participants were first asked to rank the five classical senses (sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste) plus secondary senses (balance, temperature and pain), in order of most valuable (8) to least valuable (1). Next, the fear of losing sight and hearing was investigated using a ‘Time-Trade-Off’ method. Participants chose between 10 years without sight/hearing (‘Life A’) versus varying amounts of perfect health, iteratively progressing from 10 to 0 years (‘Life B’).
88% (95% confidence intervals (CI95): 82-94%) of participants ranked sight as their most valuable sense (mean rank = 7.8; CI95: 7.6-7.9). Hearing was most frequently ranked as the second-most valuable sense (mean rank = 6.2; CI95: 6.1-6.4), but was rated as significantly less valuable than sight (Wilcoxon signed-rank test; P < 0.001). Balance was ranked as the third-most valuable sense (mean rank = 4.9; CI95: 4.7-5.1), above classical senses such as touch, taste and smell (Wilcoxon signed-rank tests; all P < 0.05).The Time-Trade-Off exercise demonstrated that on average, participants would give up 5.4 years without sight (CI95: 5.0-5.8) and 3.2 years without hearing (CI95: 2.8 – 3.5) in order to remain in perfect health (mean difference between sight and hearing = 2.2 years, P < 0.001). Men were willing to give up almost one year more without sight than women in exchange for perfect health (mean difference = 0.94, P = 0.03). There were no significant differences in the number of years without sight that participants would give up based on age, family history of sensory impairment, or having a chronic health condition (Wilcoxon rank-sum tests: all P > 0.05).
Sight is the most valued sense, followed by hearing. Participants would, on average, choose 4.6 years of life in perfect health as an alternative to 10 years of life with complete sight loss.
This abstract was presented at the 2019 ARVO Annual Meeting, held in Vancouver, Canada, April 28 - May 2, 2019.
Mean ranking of senses, ±95% confidence intervals. Points in greyscale represent individuals’ responses (N=250), jittered for illustration purposes only.
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