Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"I Need a Stronger Magnifier"

We hear this refrain many times a week at Capabilities. Frustrated with the handheld magnifier of 2x or 3x power purchased "a while ago" from a pharmacy or department store, someone's mother or father arrives on the hunt for something "bigger and stronger." First of all, there are some truths you must know about magnification.
  1. The stronger the lens, the smaller the lens.
  2. High quality glass lenses will offer distortion-free viewing surfaces.
  3. Stronger is not always "better."

You can imagine the disappointment many experience when we explain some of these realities about handheld magnifiers. That said, there are many ways to improve a situation if you bring some time and patience to try various options.

Consider the story of Ed who came in with his wife recently convinced he needed a stronger magnifier. So determined was he that he simply picked out a 5x power and went home. He pushed back on trying other alternatives. Needless to say, he was back in about a week saying that he just could not use the new magnifier. "It's too strong," he said. So, we settled in for a while to learn more about Ed, what he loves to read and what is not working about his old faithful 3x magnifier. We discovered what was important to Ed and began eliminating some of what he was "sure" would work.

  • First of all, he needed light. So, the choice of a separate Eschenbach lighted "stand" handle was a good one. This really worked for him because he loves to read the paper on the kitchen table for a couple of hours every morning. With the stand magnifier approach, he can simply pull the magnifier across the surface and not lose his place. His hands also tremble, so a typical handheld magnifier will not work for him.
  • He also needed more light. We tried lamps and lightbulbs, finally deciding on a full spectrum Indoor Sunshine bulb to give more general light to his surroundings.
  • Next, he needed more visual field, not strength of magnification. Choosing a rectangular 3.5x power head (with an optional yellow bar) turned out to give him enough visual field to see enough of the newspaper column so as not to frustrate.

Ed took the time on this trip to look at several different options and to compare. He kept testing the solutions noted above and finally concluded that this combination was the best for him. Ed's case is a perfect example of how easy it is to make a wrong decision when you get your mind set on "bigger and stronger." This can lead you to buy the wrong product, to experience more frustration, and to conclude, as some do, that there is just no help for your condition.

Contact us to discuss your options. If you are in the Denver metro area, please visit Capabilities to see the wide selection of handheld magnifiers and other tools for low vision. We are planning our next quarterly low vision seminar for April 13 at 2 p.m. Stay tuned for more details shortly. Send us your name and address to get on our mailing list to be sure you get an invitation to this and all our special low vision events.

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