Stop technology from messing with your health

It’s time to become a smarter, happier gadget-lover

Although tech has made our lives easier, it may also be responsible for some health issues. With the average UK adult now spending more time every day using media or communications devices than sleeping, here’s some measures to ensure we enjoy our gadgets the healthy way.

Earphone ear

Say what? Listening to music at full volume through earphones for more than five minutes a day could increase your risk of hearing loss. "The European regulations on control of noise at work state that regular exposure to 85 decibels (dB) can potentially damage hearing – that’s only slightly louder than a hairdryer (held close to the ear)," says Paul C Checkley, clinical director at Harley Street Hearing.

The techspertise: What's the rule of thumb? "If your music can be heard by others when you’re wearing headphones, it can damage your delicate inner ear," warns Paul. So reduce the volume and try blocking out external sounds with noise-reducing headphones. If you have any concerns about your hearing, see your GP.

Tech neck

Say what? "Spending hours with your head facing down and your shoulders hunched causes increased tension in the muscles at the back of the neck," explains Dr Craig McLean, principal chiropractor at London’s Putney Chiropractic Centre. "This can lead to poor posture and tension-type headaches. Worse still, it can be a factor in the early degeneration of the lower cervical vertebral segments (the lower back), which can cause serious pain and discomfort."

The techspertise: Dr McLean recommends regular breaks from your gadgets every 30 minutes, and to check your posture whilst using your gadgets. "[When you’re looking at the screen] your eyes should be looking straight or slightly up, rather than down," says Dr McLean. A separate keyboard and mouse can help (as you can then prop your tablet on a stand), and you should avoid putting your device on your lap. Exercise like swimming, upper-body gym work and Pilates can also help with postural issues. "Do shoulder shrugs twice a day, too: slowly bring your shoulders up towards your ears, then gently release, and repeat 10 times," adds Dr McLean.

Screen eye

Say what? Research suggests between 50 percent and 90 percent of people who work at computers suffer from eye strain (also known as computer vision syndrome). "Staring at a screen for more than three hours a day can cause it, which may lead to headaches and discomfort," says Kyla Black, Boots optometrist. "If you’re squinting, which we tend to do when looking at a computer, your blink rate also halves, so the tear films on eyes aren’t replaced as quickly, making them feel dry."

The techspertise: "Get in the habit of blinking more often," says Kyla. "Drinking water can also support tear levels, while lubricating eye drops can help relieve dry-eye symptoms. And don’t forget the 20/20/20 rule," says Kyla. "Every 20 minutes, look away from your screen at something that’s 20 feet away for 20 seconds."

Digital dementia

Say what? Researchers at De Montfort University found heavy users of mobile phones and the internet are more likely to forget things and be less aware of their surroundings, while another study suggests the mere presence of a smartphone may affect your productivity at work.

The techspertise: Studies suggest that cardiovascular fitness may help prevent the loss of brain tissue as we age, and that fitter people are able to process information more quickly. Exercise newbie? Start by doing the recommended 10,000 steps a day for healthy adults.