Adults with visual impairment may read more quickly or read a greater number of pages after using handheld magnifiers for 1 month, according to research published in Optometry and Vision Science. This finding shows that the magnifiers are not only suitable for quickly referencing text, but for continuous, sustained reading.
“For extended reading tasks, there may be hesitation either for clinical providers to prescribe a handheld optical magnifier or for patients to accept a magnifier as a solution, given factors that can potentially complicate their use for longer reading passages over several pages, such as steady movement to properly align the device and its limited field of view,” the study authors explain.
Researchers enrolled 29 adults with visual impairment (mean age, 75 years; 79% women; mean visual acuity, 0.48 logarithm of the minimum angle of resolution [logMAR]) in the multicenter investigation, which included 4 academic institutions and 6 private practices. Study participants completed a continuous reading task without the handheld magnifiers at baseline and repeated the task 1 month after receiving a new magnifier. Investigators calculated reading speed in words per minute (wpm) using the time to read each page averaged for up to 10 pages and determined maximum reading speed by averaging the fastest read page.
At the 1-month follow-up, after receiving the handheld magnifiers, there was a significant 14 wpm improvement in mean reading speed (P =.02) and an 18 wpm improvement for maximum reading speed (P =.005) compared with baseline. Participants with slower baseline reading speeds showed the greatest improvements in mean and maximum reading speeds (P =.003 and P =.02, respectively).
The use of handheld magnifiers also significantly improved reading stamina, increasing the number of pages read (P =.01). Study participants who read fewer pages at baseline or experienced greater improvements in mean reading speed read a significantly greater number of pages with the magnifier (P =.02 and P =.007, respectively).
“When appropriate magnification power, training, and practice with handheld magnifiers are provided, the reading performance achieved with the magnifier can be similar to large print,” according to the researchers. “We advise for careful clinical observation and judicious prescribing for patients who are ideal candidates to use a handheld optical magnifier, as well as identification of skill deficiencies that can be overcome with appropriate training.”
Study limitations include a small sample size.
Kaminski JE, Yoshinaga PD, Chun MW, et al. Value of handheld optical illuminated magnifiers for sustained silent reading by visually impaired adults. Optom Vis Sci. Published online March 22, 2023. doi:10.1097/OPX.0000000000002013