Magnifying Glass for Reading? What do I Need?

At some time in our lives most of us are faced with print that is too small to read. A frequent question we get asked is “how strong a magnifying glass do I need” to read a book, newspaper, pill bottle, contract or map?  For most people, a simple & inexpensive hand held magnifying glass is all you need.

What Can’t I Read?

Can’t read the finest print on a contract but you can at least tell there are words in the first eye chart paragraph? Then it’s most likely the weakest & cheapest magnifier you can buy will be enough.

If you struggle to read the largest print in the bottom paragraph of the chart below, you’ll need a stronger magnifier but most likely not as strong as you think.

Reading Glass Eye Chart
This is a typical eye chart your optometrist will show you for reading needs. If you can read the top paragraph you need little if any help. If you can only read the bottom one, read the recommendations in the next paragraph.

So What Magnification Do I Need?

The macula has the highest density of cone cells in in your eye & is what you use to  read. Your peripheral vision uses rod cells for seeing motion, like a baseball that’s about to hit you.

Think of magnification in terms of how much area your macula is using to see something. A 2X magnifier expands a word so that it uses twice the area, i.e.  twice as many cone cells. This might not seem like much but it should make most or all of the paragraphs above comfortably readable.

Hand Magnifiers for Reading
Three sizes of hand magnifier are shown, 2, 3 & 4″ (50, 75, 100mm) that range from 2X for the biggest to 3.5X for the smallest. These are all you should need to read a book, map, pill bottle or contract. If they don’t, time to see your optometrist.

The largest (4″/100mm) magnifier in the picture above magnifies the least but it means you can scan a larger area like a map & see more adjacent streets without moving the magnifier. The smallest hand magnifier (2″ 50mm) should be enough for fine print in contracts or pill bottle instructions.

If you have some form of eye disease like macular degeneration, you’ll need something stronger. More on that soon.

Article Name
What Magnification Do I Really Need for Reading?
Reading is a pleasure most of us take for granted but as we get older, it seems the print keeps on getting smaller. However, unless you have a serious vision problem, this can be remedied with a very simple hand magnifier, sometimes with as little as 2X magnification.
Indigo Instruments

2 thoughts on “Magnifying Glass for Reading? What do I Need?

  1. The scrolling required to get anywhere with this is just too tricky.
    You don’t even provide any guide as to common levels of magnification for typical levels of eyesight deterioration.
    Made worse by the fact that many hand held, low cost magnifiers, (one for every room in the house) are rated at x3 or x5 but clearly barely increase text size by 50% & then only when held in what might be regarded as extreme positions.

    1. You must be viewing on a phone. Scrolling on a desktop seems easy enough.

      Eyesight deterioration can be caused by simple aging to macular degeneration to cataracts, etc. The intent wasn’t to address all of these but mainly simple aging which doesn’t always need a lot of magnification.

      Thanks for the feedback though. Might be time for a rewrite.

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