Choosing a magnifier

There are many different types of magnifiers, they all have advantages and disadvantages. It is important that anyone using them understands and appreciates the potential as well as the limitations of the range available.


What is a magnifier? A magnifier is a specially designed lens, mounted in a variety of frames and stands. It bends rays of light entering the eye to make an image appear larger on the retina at the back of the eye. The effect is that the image looks bigger and easier to see. Magnifiers are also known as low vision aids or LVAs for short.


What do you use a magnifier for? Most people use magnifiers for reading, but you can use them for many activities and tasks around the home including needlework and DIY, as well as some outdoor tasks. Using magnifiers for long periods of time can be very tiring, especially when reading, and it can be frustrating. Magnifiers are most appropriate for ‘spot’ reading tasks at home, such as TV guides, washing machine controls, mail, food packaging or cooking instructions. They can also be useful when you are out and about to look at bus timetables, shop prices and menus.

General advice on using magnifiers

• Your choice of magnifier will depend on your level of vision, what you want to do, where you’re going to use it and what you feel comfortable in using.

• Wear your glasses if appropriate (ask your optician for further guidance). These may be distance or reading glasses. Varifocals and bifocals are not helpful when using your magnifier.

• Use one eye, your better working or preferred eye, with the clearest amount of vision.

• Remember, that the bigger a magnifier is – the weaker it will be. The smaller the magnifier – the stronger it will be.

• The stronger the magnifier is, the closer you’ll have to put it to your eye in order to get a good clear image.

• To have longer reading and working distances (the distance between your eye and the page), you will have to use a weaker magnifier, which will not give you as much magnification.

• It is not possible to have a powerful magnifier that you can use at your normal reading distance, that also enables you to see lots of words at the same time.

• On most round magnifiers generally the strongest part of the lens is located in the centre. If you look through the outer edges of the lens it may appear distorted and wavy, and will not give you the best level of magnification.

• When using magnifiers that do not have built-in illumination, the use of a task light to improve light and contrast levels can help. Task lighting is designed for close up tasks. When using a task light it should be positioned in front of you, below eye level, close to the activity you are carrying out.