Face masks & mav

Hi, had an interesting experience today with my new disposable face mask that I’d thought I’d share. I normally wear a handmade cotton mask when going into any retail outlet but today I wore a standard size disposable.

It felt comfortable on my face but its size covering my nose actually cut out some of my vision when I looked down at the path or shop floor. Despite all my meds and improvement to date I found that this small visual block actually caused me to misjudge my stepping forward on a number of occasions so it completely threw me. I had to keep telling myself that the ground was level and straight.

I was delighted to rip it off once I got to the car. For any of you still unsteady on your feet maybe do a trial run with mask around your kitchen or back yard first… Otherwise you’ll me like me in the shop… Looking head down and muttering like a crazy lady… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye::wink:

Have a good day.


I experience the same thing. I also wear glasses, so where the face mask meets my glasses creates an unlevel field of vision. I have to be careful walking. I usually have to spend some time getting the perfect fit before heading into a store.


There Elaine that post got me running around the house trying out all the face masks we own. Unfortunately they are all different designs of the reusable variety. Not a reusable in sight. I think I see what you must be meaning though. A lot of people are having trouble with masks one way or another mostly of the difficulty breathing type however any change to the eye viewing area can have a knock on effect where balance dysfunction exists because the majority of sufferers will be very visually dependent.

Se ong Chin writes in a paper entitled ‘Visual Vertigo’: Vertigo of Oculomotor Origin’

" We fixate the location of our footfall on average of 2 steps ahead in order to have a safe landing. There was a clear temporal link between gaze and stepping pattern, explaining the use of visual information in our daily activity of walking. Saccadic eye movements align gaze invariably with relevant environmental features prior to changing direction while walking. The consistent head alignment following gaze change before and during the achievement of a new path indicated the fundamental role of vision in the control of steering"

Without realising it people who have become visually dependent will quickly come to rely on carrying out visual checks rather than use proprioception. Reduce/alter that visual option and the brain doesn’t necessarily believe that floor is even present get alone flat and even. From this same reason I am currently trying to relearn going up and down my staircase at home without looking down. I am still lacking despite much practice.

Another movement also affected results in that ‘startled’ effect where one jumps upon suddenly finding the is one more stair/step than anticipated. The lack of confidence that results in the misplaced use of vision over proprieoceotion actually makes one focus on the current step instead of looking two steps ahead all the time hence the sudden shock.

So pleased you didn’t come to any harm as a result of your experience. Just as well to spread the word. Bit of practice never goes amiss. Helen


This is really useful information. It explains so much of why I frequently misjudge and occasionally stumble.

A few years ago I was snowshoeing way up past the tree line on Mt. Rainier. Nothing but snowfields. It was blowing snow. The ground was steeply pitched. There was no visual difference between the ground and sky. I had zero visual cues. Everyone else just trudged along. I fell dozens of times. To get off the mountain I eventually had to take my husband’s arm, close my eyes and trudge forward until my snow shoes crunched on pavement back at the trailhead. Promptly fell asleep on the way home from mental exhaustion.


Thanks Helen, that’s the first time I’ve read a good summary of what happens when vision is interrupted,explains the why very well so thanks for sending that on.

In a way it was a gentle reminder that the beast is still there despite the meds etc… So even on a clear crystal morning from mav, all it took was one small face mask to remind me that it’s always there…


This struck me the most. One day as I was walking across the entrance drive going into the grocery store about 10 feet of intervening pavement simply stopped existing. It looked like an abyss with sharp edges. Of course I stumbled, but didn’t fall because my cognitive MAV filter kicked in and did the math on what was more likely - I’d found a worm hole in space or I just visually lost my place in it. It wasn’t much of a leap of faith to put one foot in front of the other, but my adrenaline kicked in anyway. The silent hell of visual vertigo.


That’s the reason I still cannot carry a tray of drinks. I can carry two coffee mugs filled to the brim without spillage but then I can still see my feet.

I always get great satisfaction from finding some feasible reason for my seemingly quirky behaviour. Found much in that paper years ago that made sense to me.

I have been out today walking wearing a reusable mask which even though it didn’t affect my field of vision stopped me looking down I suppose because subconsciously I was more than half expecting it to fall off. I was fine on good level dry pavements. Perhaps I need to try one in my stairs!

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