Study shows e-readers can help those with vision lossReading is a popular pastime that takes people on exciting journeys, immerses them in historical events and puts them on the scenes of mysterious crimes.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
Reading is a popular pastime that takes people on exciting journeys, immerses them in historical events and puts them on the scenes of mysterious crimes.
While the adventurous nature of books hasn’t changed, the way people delve into them is significantly different than it used to be. Someone at the bookstore used to have to decide whether they preferred paperback or hardcover. Now many people no longer step foot in bookstores at all.
Electronic reading devices have made their way into the hands of many die-hard readers and given some what they’ve always wanted — thousands of stories at their fingertips without having to lug around thousands of books.
The convenience factor is a big seller, but a recent study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology shows that e-readers are much more than convenient and those people who have trouble reading standard books may stand to benefit the most.
“Reading is a simple pleasure that we often take for granted until vision loss makes it difficult,” said Daniel Roth, an associate clinical professor at a medical school in New Jersey.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, central vision loss affects millions of people with eye diseases such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. The diseases damage the light-sensitive cells of the eye’s retina. When treatments like glasses, medications or surgery are no longer effective, ophthalmologists focus on helping patients maximize their remaining sight, and e-readers do just that, Roth discovered.
Roth led researchers at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School as they conducted a study with 100 participants who had moderate vision loss and found that every one of them improved their speed of reading by using an electronic tablet.
“Our findings show that at a relatively low cost, digital tablets can improve the lives of people with vision loss and help them reconnect with the larger world,” he explained.
All 100 participants gained at least 42 words per minute when they read materials on an iPad versus reading them from a print book or newspaper. It was the patients with the poorest corrected vision — defined as 20/40 or worse in both eyes — that showed the most improvement in speed when they used electronic devices compared with print.
The reason, researchers said, are the back-illuminated screens on e-readers that help people gain contrast sensitivity, meaning they can more easily separate objects from a background space.
Additionally, the ability to enlarge font on the digital devices has contributed to their comfort while reading, which the study also analyzed. Results showed that a person’s preferred mode of reading was linked to their degree of vision loss. For example, people with the worst vision found the iPad most comfortable, while those with the best vision preferred print.
Researchers said the information they discovered will help ophthalmologists as they advise patients with various degrees of vision loss.
And the study benefits more than just professionals. It comes out during the holiday season when everyone is busy searching for the perfect gifts.
This year, an e-reader may be just that.