Helpful Hints

Using magnifiers with more success

We often hear that someone’s magnifier “is not working.”  It is very likely that the magnifier was the correct one to use but was not used properly.  The general rule is that the more powerful the magnifier, the less the distance between the text to be read and the person’s face.  High powered magnifiers, a power of 10 times magnification or more, require very little distance between the person’s face to the magnifier to the work to be viewed.   That distance in total might be only six inches.   The problem is that people are used to a reading distance of about eighteen inches. Holding a high power magnifier too far away blurs the image.   While it may appear simple to use a reduced distance when using a magnifier, it actually is very hard to do in practice.   Most of our patients have been using a reading distance of eighteen inches for over eighty years.  Despite their initial efforts, their hands soon drift to towards the eighteen inches.  Practice prevents this from happening.

The next important factor is to use good lighting.  A simple $20 desk lamp can be very effective if used properly.  The key is positioning.  It is important to turn the lamp light so that it shines directly on the text to be read.  The optimal positioning shines the light from the side and not over the shoulder.  Light that is shined from over the shoulder likely will produce glare that will bounce back to the reader’s face.

We also teach patients use good body mechanics.  Given that the reading has to be done in close distances, the natural tendency is for the patient to hunch over the reading matter.  Bending  over reading matter causes back strain.  It is much more preferable to raise the reading matter up so that it allows the reader to be closer to an upright position.  The reading matter can be propped up using a table top reading stand or lap desk.   In a pinch, a pillow can be used.

Using a high power hand magnifier successfully takes patience and practice.  However, if used correctly, high powered magnifiers can be a very important tool for low vision patients.