Magnifiers enlarge the size of images such as print or pictures. Magnifiers are commonly used by people with central vision loss to assist with near tasks.
Choosing a magnifier
The magnifier prescribed for an individual depends on:
- their level of vision,
- the reading material they wish to access, such as recreational reading, spot reading a medication label, accessing documents for work or text books for school,
- the environment in which they are reading
- cognitive or physical limitations.
Most magnifiers for near or close up tasks are much stronger than reading glasses and they come in a variety of types and strengths.
Strength of magnifiers
Magnifiers come in different strengths or powers denoted by the number of times it increases the size of an image. Magnification strengths can range from 1x and move in varying increments to 15x or 20x.
As the magnification increases:
- The amount that can be seen through the lens (field of view) decreases. For example, several words can be seen through a 2x magnifier, whereas only two words can be seen through a 15x magnifier.
- The closer the magnifier and the eye need to be to the page to stay in focus.
- Distortion around the edges of the magnifier increases because the plastic is thicker. The closer the eye is to the magnifier, the larger the area of print seen and the less distortion is apparent.
Types of magnifiers
It is important for people to trial different types of magnifiers to work out which ones suit their needs. Many people have a range of different magnifiers for different reading/writing situations and other near tasks such as hand sewing.
Types of magnifiers include:
- Hand magnifiers: these are held in the hand and the user adjusts the height of the magnifier from the page until the print is in focus.
- Stand magnifiers: sit on the page and don’t need to be focussed
- Illuminated magnifiers: have in-built light sources and are available in both hand and stand magnifiers.
If stronger magnification is required, hand magnifiers can become difficult to use. Illuminated stand magnifiers tend to perform better at higher magnification levels.
From about 10x magnification, only a couple of words can be seen at a time when reading, therefore an electronic video magnifier connected to a larger screen may be more appropriate.
At a Vision Australia low vision clinic, clients can trial all the different types of magnifiers available and learn how to use the right one effectively.