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Watching TV With Low Vision

by: Southwest Low Vision 1-888-534-4321

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Many people call and ask me how they can see the TV better. There are a myriad of low vision devices and telescopic glasses that can do the trick, especially from across the room. For some, the costs of such devices can be prohibitive, while others complain of eyestrain and fatigue after using the special glasses for a short time.
Sitting Close to the TV

It seems elementary, but often times I will ask someone if they have tried sitting close to the TV - even real close. I often hear the same response - Wow! - I can see vivid colors sitting this close, or I can read and see the faces, what a difference!

I recently had a gentleman named Barney from Danville, California call me and insist that I write a notice and send it to every eye care professional in the U.S.! He was so surprised to find not only could he see his TV better and sharper when up close, his scatoma or blind spot (what he calls his “junk”) disappeared! “This answer is so simple”, he stated, “yet no one had informed me about it!”

There are some very technical explanations as to why a person’s blind spot seems to disappear when viewing the TV up close, but let’s just say - try it, you’ll like it! And, you cannot hurt your eyes sitting close to the TV, so don’t worry. Move up close.

What you are really doing when you move up is making the picture bigger on your retina. For instance, if you’ve been sitting 8 feet away, and you move up to 4 feet, you have made the picture twice as big, or 2X in your eye.

If you move up to 2 feet away, you made the picture four times larger or 4X. Getting up close to things is one way to improve your functional vision.

Other Important Considerations

Did you know a smaller screen is much sharper than a big screen? When viewing a TV up close, anyone can notice that a small TV (like a 13" or 14") is much sharper than a larger screen. Before you go out and buy a large screen TV, go to the local TV retailer and look at all the different sizes, and see what is best for you. Make sure the screen is at eye level if you can. With more recent developments, the LCD TV (liquid crystal display) is more relaxing for the eye, because of almost inexistant glare and flicker as in a standard CRT TV (cathode ray tube).

For those with macular degeneration, or persons with a large central blind spot, there are a few “tricks” you can use to see the TV even better. If you have one eye better than another, turn your chair on a 45-degree angle toward your better eye, so you are not facing the screen directly, but toward your better eye.

Another trick when up close to the TV is to look up above the screen slightly, and notice the picture as you do this. It may take a bit of practice, but placing your blind spot above what you want to see is often better than looking directly at something - and this includes the TV picture, as well as seeing faces or looking at an object.

Another thing to consider is the glare in the room when watching TV. Light from windows, doors or lamps can often reflect onto the screen, causing you not to see as well. Sometimes placement of the TV away from windows or not directly across from windows, doors or lamps helps tremendously.

Finally, notice the angle at which you are looking at the screen - are you looking down, or at eye level? Often if your TV is very low, it can be hard to see when compared to “straight on” viewing. Having the screen just several inches below eye level is ideal. Don’t ever put the screen up above your eye level as this angle can not only hurt your neck, but may dry out your eyes.

Make sure to relax. Be aware of your neck, shoulders and back when watching TV and make sure the chair is supporting you and there are no muscles being strained. If these suggestions do not work in helping you watch TV, a specialist in low vision aids or devices may be able to guide you in finding a device to help.

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