Glasses issues

June 21, 2018, 4:17 PM · I put this under technique and practicing because I wasn't sure where else to put it. I wear progressive lenses normally. When I returned to the violin after a 38 year absence (I did not wear glasses back in high school) I quickly found that progressives don't work for reading music. The "reading" portion is too small so everything outside that tiny area is blurry.

So I play in readers. But they are only good at about 18-24". When I bend down to write notes it blurs out. I tried readers with more magnification than I'm used to, and that's worse.

What do most people who wear progressive lenses do? Do I just need to suck it up?

Replies (47)

Edited: June 27, 2018, 8:50 AM · I agree with you that regular progressives are pretty impossible for reading unfamiliar music - especially the way we string players move our heads around.

What diopter are the readers you are using?
I suggest you experiment with some drugstore readers. Don't buy them just check out different magnifications (i.e., diopters) in the store at different distances to see what works for you.

Amazon.com sells some progressive readers that might work for you.
For example, if 1.5 diopters works for you for reading text and 1.0 diopter works for reading music, there is a progressive that combines both magnifications.*** Check out their website: search "progressive readers".

For my last optometrist prescription I specifically got measured for distance, for 1 meter and for about 18 inches. Then I used ZENNI.COM to order progressives that combined the two shorter distances into a progressive that works for both reading music while playing and for reading books (or writing on my music) and that also has a correction for my mild astigmatism. My music/reading progressive glasses from Zenni have the 1-meter focal length in the top half for reading music and transition smoothly to about 12-inch focal length at the very bottom for closer reading than I need (also work with my laptop Mac).

Zenni's prices for single vision corrected glasses are cheaper than drugstore "readers." and their prices for progressives are comparably low - as little as $6.95 including frame plus $4.95 for each shipment.

EDIT: I have used everything I have described here. Also I have had cataract surgery for both eyes (about 4 years apart - late 70s and early 80s). The worst time (not really that bad) is just prior to the first cataract surgery when most of us oldies have to keep enlarging our music and it is hard to read the bottom of a 13-14" sheet and watch the conductor at the same time (and not block the players behind you) - even worse in a chamber orchestra where the concertmaster leads. During the month following my 2nd cataract surgery I purchased "adjustable reading glasses" from Amazon.com to use while my new embedded plastic lens found its eventual fcal length. These glasses allow an incredibly large range of + and - diopter settings so (unlike regular readers) your two lenses can be set for different corrections. These cost me about $25 or less. They work ("in a pinch") but I would not want to have to depend on them the rest of my life because their focus tends to "slip" a little every time I encased them. Again - all of these would work well only for people with no or minor astigmatism (i.e., spherical aberration). I cannot find these adjustable "readers" now - I think I gave them to the violinist in my piano trio last autumn as he was preparing for cataract surgery - unfortunately within the span of 2 weeks the macular degeneration he had been battling for the past 15 years finally closed his vision beyond the point where he could read music at all and our 20 years of weekly trios apparently ended forever - remembering those glasses is the least of his problems.

*** These are distances I use for orchestra or chamber music (including cello, which are longer than might be needed for violin or viola). "Diopter" is the ratio of the lens focal length to one meter, So a 2 diopter lens has a focal length of 0.5/1 (i.e., 19.5 inches) and so on.

Edited: June 21, 2018, 4:44 PM · I am an ophthalmologist (when I am not playing the violin). I have the same issue - I also learned that progressives are a bust for reading violin music. A “B” can even look like a “G”, and it’s really disturbing.

First, a little optics:

Let’s first assume that’s you are emmetropic (no glasses for distance, or wearing contacts for distance focus). The readers you need are the reciprocal of the distance in meters from your eye to the page. In other words, a +1.00 reader will focus best at 1 meter, 2.00 at ½ meter etc. Then, it’s all about age. Near vision issues for emmetropes start at age 45. Ifyou are over about 60, you have little or no additional or reserve accommodation for anything closer than the calculated focal point. A younger person has more accommodation, and can focus nearer than the calculated focal point. A teenager can focus on the tip of their nose with ease. A rule of thumb for readers after 45 is to use the lowest power reader that gets the job done for you.

Now let’s say you are nearsighted, and wear -1.00 glasses. You already focus at 1 meter, so even the lowest power OTC readers may focus too closely. I.e. a +1.50 focuses as if it’s +2.50. Similarly, if you are a +1.00 hyperope (farsighted) you need +1.00 just to break even, and a 2.00 or 2.50 might be appropriate.

I am 60, and emmetropic when I wear my contacts (every day). I use +1.50 OTC readers for violin.

If you post your age, your distance glasses prescription, and how far the score is from your eyes, I can discuss your particular situation. You can even devise “music glasses” with the score in focus in the top of a bifocal, and close reading distance for marking up the score in a lower segment. I’d still avoid a progressive for this purpose, though some of the nicer and more expensive progressives like Zeiss or Varilux might work (no proprietary interest).

Hope this helps!

June 21, 2018, 5:13 PM · Progressive are pretty marginal for reading music. I tried to solve the problem by having single-vision glasses made by an optometrist. I brought in a music stand and he measured the distance.

Does it work? Kind of. For one thing if you wear progressives on a regular basis, you get used to trying to place what you're looking at in a specific part of the lens, and you brain expects it to be blurry if it's not.
Another issue is where you're sitting, and the angle of the stand, which can vary in an orchestra.
But speaking of orchestras, the main problem with using single-vision close up lenses is that when you look at the conductor or the stand ahead of you for bowing changes, you seen blur.

Whatever you do is a trade off. My advice is not to age.
And I'd probably avoid lasik surgery.

June 21, 2018, 5:32 PM · What Scott said. Take your instrument and music stand to the optometrist (or ophthalmologist) and set it up so they can measure exactly the distance you are focusing at. It is true that looking up, you won't see as clearly as you might be used to. Personally I think a blurry conductor could be a feature, not a bug....

I don't know how I got so lucky but my progressive lenses actually work quite well for reading music. However, most of my colleagues in my age range have dedicated music reading glasses.

June 21, 2018, 7:05 PM · My prescription is on my work computer and I won't be back there until Mon, but when I am, I will post it. I do get my glasses at Zenni (love the low prices) and it makes sense to get a pair specifically for music. So I will make plans to go into an optometrist with that in mind. This is really helpful. I do feel that sometimes I don't see what the note is in time--it takes too long to sort it out and it's clearly a vision issue.

I am 55 BTW. Wore no glasses until 40, when I started using readers. A few years later I realized that the rest of the world was getting blurry and got the progressives.

June 21, 2018, 7:36 PM · I don't think the prescription you have for your progressives is going to be all that informative for a pair of single-vision glasses.

I just turned 57. Really wish I knew what magic my optometrist used to determine the prescription for my progressives, because I actually see the music more clearly with them than I did when I tried a pair of single-vision music reading glasses. Most people's experience aligns with yours, not mine.

June 21, 2018, 7:39 PM · I find if I number more fingerings it helps a lot. I also reprint stuff a little larger. I often wonder what would happen if you had one lense for reading and another for distance like some contact lenses? Probably take awhile to get used to.

Thanks for the informative info, Dr. Zack's!

June 21, 2018, 8:22 PM · I’ll look forward to seeing your prescription.

I agree with most of above, except that as I earlier noted the distance prescription is very relevant to the reading or intermediate prescription. The nearer ranges are a simple offset from the distant Rx. Example: Your bifocal or progressive Rx would appear like this: -1.00 + 1.00 x 90 + 2.00, where -1.00 is the spherical error (negative is nearsighted) + 1.00 is the cylinder (astigmatism), 90 is the axis of astigmatism, and +2.00 is the “add” or near offset from whatever the distance Rx is.

Progressives can work for music, but if you try it I’d avoid inexpensive progressives. The blend from dist. to near is a proprietary shape, and some of the cheap ones are very swimmy in the progression. A good one should be nearly seamless as one looks down through it, dist. to near. Some of the budget ones are really inadequate. As with so many things, one gets what they pay for (or maybe just a little less...) If you try progressives, don’t buy GSO’s.

June 21, 2018, 9:00 PM · I paid a small fortune for my progressives...maybe that's why they work.
June 21, 2018, 9:39 PM · When sharing a stand in the orchestra the notes can easily be 3 feet away. Progressives don't work for me because my head is at one single angle on the chin rest. Bifocals can add or subtract a ledger line. I have several different reading glasses at different strengths from the dollar store ($1 each!). Be very aware of which eye is dominant.
Edited: June 21, 2018, 9:50 PM · I have a pair of single-focal glasses for the music stand. Bi-focal glasses, progressive or otherwise, do not work for me when i need to read music.
Edited: June 22, 2018, 9:50 AM · You mentioned low cost glasses, and I agree with Mary Ellen, you get what you pay for. I have a strong and complex prescription (+5 dioptre with prism correction) with high-refraction index progressive bifocals, which are digitally formulated, and they are just great. Inexpensive glasses give me a pea-size focus zone, which make me dizzy, whereas these offer a much larger in-focus area and smoother transition, but as Mary Ellen said, they don’t come cheap at around $1000. Single focal lenses don’t work for me as I can’t see the conductor without far sight correction.
June 22, 2018, 10:10 AM · Much of this will be dependent on each individual's prescription, as well as their particular playing situation, and what they are accustomed to; and yes, good progressives can really cost a lot.

Someone mentioned LASIK - LASIK can be very effective to correct (usually large) refractive errors, but have no illusion it will help with presbyopia - you'll still need readers. Think of LASIK as having no more benefit than a contact lens set for distance focus. Near accomodation will still depend on age.

I have a few musician patients that have had refractive surgery with good result, but unfortunately those that had radial keratotomy in the dark ages of refractive surgery have had some very difficult problems. I have another pt who is a professional pianist, who requested cataract surgery implants that I calculated to focus optimally on his score while sitting at the piano - So that's an option too when it's time for cataract surgery.

Applied optics at its best!

Edited: June 22, 2018, 12:22 PM · It isn't only string players who have the issue with progressives. I have had several pairs of progressives and they seemed to work ok for everything except music. In playing the piano you can imagine looking at the music through the top of your progressives. I was tilting my head back to see through them.

My eye doc did what I requested and set me up with a pair of dedicated glasses for computer and music work. In a pinch I can drive with them on since they have UV protection too, but things far out look blurry.

I attempted a few different contact designs and like Scott said, it was a trade off.For that matter, so are the glasses.I have good vision at a distance. My solution is I change glasses when I drive or go out to the progressives and wear the others when looking to a 2-3 meter distance.

I wouldn't tell my eye doc this. I bought a pair of computer readers designed with protection from the monitor radiation and they work better than my prescription glasses which were expensive.

I have like 5 pairs of glasses hah. One pair by the bed for reading. A few pairs at work and a few pairs for driving and going out.

Getting old sucks.

June 22, 2018, 1:29 PM · I do not have the funds for expensive glasses, so the solution needs to be reasonably priced. I can muddle through, but it would be great if there were a solution that would be possible for me financially. I have never had any problem with the cheap glasses--they work great for normal life and reading. It is my understanding that the glasses stores send out to the same places the online stores do--the brick and mortar stores just have more overhead so they change more for the same thing.
June 22, 2018, 3:05 PM · I used bifocals many years ago but, as Joel noted, kept seeing intriguing 6-line staves - or even the interesting 4-liner, so I had a single focus prescription specifically for playing the cello, and it worked. I could still see the blur waving its arms in the distance, and seeing bowing by the section leader was no problem.
I suppose the ultimate solution is to play by memory.
June 22, 2018, 8:52 PM · I actually don't know what "progressives" are! For normal functioning I don't need glasses and my distance and night vision are very good - hence also, my driving vision. But I use drugstore readers of 1.50 for reading a book and 1.25 for music on the stand. If I know the music real well and half have it memorized, I don't always need any glasses. Also, it depends on the size of the music print and the light and how tired I am or am not.
June 23, 2018, 4:08 AM · Progressives are like bifocals, sort of, but they blend the two prescriptions so there is not a dramatic change between the two. I need glasses to read, but I also now need them for distance as well. Getting older does suck.
June 23, 2018, 5:51 AM · In the UK "progessives" are called "varifocals". For example, the upper part of a varifocal lens may be for distance viewing, and the lower for reading or close work. One will smoothly merge into the other, so you shouldn't be seeing 6- or 4-line staves that can bedevil bifocals for a musician.

The other optical defect that does suck when you get older is cataract, which is a build-up of cloudiness in the lens within the eye. It can't be corrected by glasses but the good news is that the eye lens can be replaced in a 20-minute operation under local anaesthesia, and you'll be home the next day. HM Elizabeth II had a cataract operation round about the time of the recent royal wedding this year; the only visible after-effect was that she was wearing dark glasses for about a week afterwards. Cataract operations are the most common hospital operations in the UK.

A great-aunt of mine had her cataract operations in her mid-80s and afterwards was able to read newspapers and books for the first time in years. My optician tells me that I'll need a cataract operation sometime because I have a slow-developing one.

June 23, 2018, 7:47 AM · I have progressives plus fixed-focus ones for reading at a little more than arm's length. I keep a drugstore pair (+1.00) which I perch in front of the others for fingerings, string-changing etc.
June 23, 2018, 8:23 AM · Charles,

I have cataract surgery scheduled for October.... mine are in their early stages and only a "minor" issue with night driving. My "temporary" new prescription glasses are bi-focal and the distance prescription is excellent and the bifocal is okay for reading books etc...... neither is useful for reading music off the stand or reading on the computer [ both are usually at about a 26" focal length.
My plan right now is too have the replacement [eye] lenses be for the distance vision hoping that they will be a good as the corrective distance in my glasses. Then hoping to have a good pair of progressive lenses made for the "26"" distance to "standard reading distance.
Am I on or off base with my desires? [won't have an opportunity to talk with the surgeon until September.}

June 23, 2018, 12:16 PM · @ Charles - About a year ago, at dinner with friends, one of my friends saw me reading the menu with OTC readers and said that his doctor told him that those would eventually ruin one's eyes. I never heard that before or since. I think in your first post you mentioned that you, yourself used OTC readers. Should I be worried?
June 23, 2018, 4:09 PM · I have been advised to avoid OTC readers. I had strabismus surgery in late 2016 and was told that since my eyes are slightly closer together than average, they wouldn't match the focal centers (not sure this is the correct phrase) in OTC lenses, which could put my surgically achieved alignment at risk.
June 24, 2018, 2:28 AM · I have the exact same problem I wear progressives and they don't do well reading music. So, my solution was this, when I went for my eyes testing I took my music stand, a piece of music and set it up in the exam room, I asked my optometrist to give me good readers for the distance that my music was away from my eyes, in my case it was 36 inches, This worked well and now each time I have my eyes tested I do the same thing.
June 24, 2018, 7:07 AM · To Michael - When you have cataract surgery, the intraocular lenses (IOLs) can be selected to achieve whatever refractive result you want, usually with great accuracy. Most people elect to set both eyes for distance as you suggested, and then use reading correction for near. It is also possible to do "monovision", with one distance and one near focal point, usually the the dominant eye for distance (R in most R handed people). Given all the comments above, I would not highly recommend that for musicians - one eye will be out of focus for everything you are trying to do. It's better for those who are willing to make that optical concession to avoid wearing glasses.

You should also know that if you have astigmatism, it will be present both before and after cataract surgery using conventional, insurance covered IOLs. The practical result is that you will still need glasses for both distance and near to correct the native astigmatism if present - this can be disappointing if you don't expect it. If you have more than about 1.5 diopters of astigmatism, consider a toric (astigmatism correcting) IOL. This will optimize distance vision without glasses, and allow you to use inexpensive OTC readers for near. They costs more, but if done accurately, they work very well if you have astigmatism.

Multifocal IOLs are also available - you'll hear about them. They focus at both distance and near simultaneously, which initially sounds great, but the optical concessions (one never gets something for nothing) are glare, and loss of contrast sensitivity. These are not occasional side effects for some - it happens for all. I don't offer them because most people want surgery to reduce glare, and complaints about resulting visual quality are common.

Bottom line - Set IOL power for distance in both eyes, and if you have astigmatism, be sure to ask about toric IOLs.

To Ellen - If you have a strabismus history, you may be more sensitive to glasses that induce prism by having optical centers wider or narrower than your inter-pupillary distance (PD). The effect would be a sense of fatigue if it was a little off, or horizontal double vision if it was a lot. Prescription glasses can designate a PD, or even add a little prism to optically converge or diverge ocular alignment to suit. OTC glasses are "one PD fits most". At the low powers we are talking about for reading music, the PD error should be small, so I'd say use OTC readers if they are comfortable. Rest assured that it emphatically would never do any damage, but you might risk playing a repeat when nobody else is... (just kidding).

June 24, 2018, 7:16 AM · Thank you Charles.... ! very good info.
June 24, 2018, 9:48 AM · Thank you, Charles! Fortunately I have very good (and very expensive) progressive lenses that work quite well for everything from close reading to driving, including reading music. Before my surgery, I had increasingly strong pairs of prism glasses to use over my monovision contacts. The monovision contacts were prescribed before my strabismus became so apparent or bothersome, and probably exacerbated existing tendencies in that direction. I will never use monovision again and have given up on contacts.

The next big decision is a few years down the road but I will eventually need cataract surgery. Trying to decide whether to get distance corrected, with music glasses and readers, or to do what my sister did and have lenses put in that change nothing in my current vision (other than getting rid of the cataracts).

June 24, 2018, 12:45 PM · That’s really interesting re the monovision, and makes perfect sense with your strabismus history. Fusion (the ability to see one image cooperatively with two eyes) can be deficient with a strabismus history, even after muscle surgery, and monovision only further disrupts the fusion stimulus by making one image blurry.

When it comes to cataract surgery, there are a variety of theoretical options, and my only advice there is to see an ophthalmologist who actually listens to you, and is willing to discuss options and their advantages/limitations for your particular occupational, sensory and lifestyle situation. I see too many surgeons offer only a “generic” service, and don’t take these important considerations into account. When I get the dreaded “second opinion” after the fact, it can be really hard to manage.

Such is my world - I’ll now take a rest here and look forward to your expertise in music.

June 24, 2018, 1:17 PM · Bifocals (and progressives) are usually problematic for music reading because the standard calibration for reading is 12-15 inches.

For most of us, music-reading distance will be similar to computer-screen distance -- i.e. more like 24-30 inches.

So if your primary glasses are bifocals/progressives, the cheapest (and in my opinion best) solution is to get a separate prescription for single-vision glasses at computer/music distance.

Your optometrist should be able to do this at no extra charge next time you get an eye exam. You can take a music stand into the office, or just do the measurement yourself when you're at home, optometrist can do calculations.

Then, if you really want to save money, you ask the optometrist to write out the prescription and just order your music glasses online at one of the many reputable online glasses sites. Good ones include Zenni Optical, Eyebuydirect and goggles4u.com.

If you don't care about fancy frames, you can get perfectly acceptable single-vision prescription glasses for $7-12 a pair. An anti-glare coating is good to have if you're using it for computer screens.

Don't be scared away from cheap glasses -- they're fine if you don't need high-end features. And there are so many nice benefits -- such as that people like me who are always misplacing glasses can afford to own several pairs.

June 24, 2018, 3:47 PM · "Don't be scared away from cheap glasses -- they're fine if you don't need high-end features."

On that subject: glass, although heavier, is much better optically than plastic. It's also more scratch-resistant. So if your frames aren't 1980 big, you can save a lot and get better vision with glass.

June 24, 2018, 4:49 PM · If your frames aren't 1980 big...or if your prescription is within normal human variance. Glass lenses in my prescription are the proverbial Coke bottle bottoms.
Edited: June 24, 2018, 5:12 PM · I am very nearsighted with astigmatism and progressive lenses. I started having trouble reading orchestra music in concerts a few years ago. It seems that my prescription was good for 10" and 100' away, but made for a difficult transition between the two distances.

Two solutions:
First was to punt on the progressive lenses altogether, and get a single prescription that was OK from 30" out, if imperfect for very long distances. On those glasses, I can't read anything at all closer than 30", but they're OK once I'm settled into my chair in the orchestra.

The second, better solution was to keep the progressive bits intact and alter the rest of the prescription so it transitions better to medium-distance. Essentially, I'm going for very good vision up to, say, 20 feet. It works well for reading documents on a table and seeing faces very clearly at a seminar or in a chamber group. Beyond that, it's actually good enough to drive (or see a conductor), but I do sacrifice a little precision.

June 24, 2018, 6:18 PM · And to Raphael, Charles? ;-)

(About a year ago, at dinner with friends, one of my friends saw me reading the menu with OTC readers and said that his doctor told him that those would eventually ruin one's eyes. I never heard that before or since. I think in your first post you mentioned that you, yourself used OTC readers. Should I be worried?)

June 24, 2018, 7:24 PM · Sorry for the omission, Raphael, but it overlapped with Ellen’s question. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with OTC readers if they are optically appropriate for you. Even if they aren’t, it is just not possible to “ruin one’s eyes” with them - it can’t happen. Now that’s not to say that things may be uncomfortable if they are not appropriate for you, with blur or visual discomfort (asthenopia), but emphatically there’s no risk of physical damage.

I am nearsighted with moderate astigmatism, and wear soft contacts all day, set for distance in both eyes. I prefer cheap, replaceable readers at work because my glasses get a lot of wear and tear as I repetitively look through my slit lamp optics without glasses, then put them on for the charting computer. That can happen at least 50-100 times a day on a busy clinic day.

I do have some nice progressives I use at other times, but not for music, when I also use the low power OTC readers (+1.50 works for me).

Edited: June 25, 2018, 12:10 AM · As someone that requires a correction of over -7.00, I am very envious of you all.

Fortunately, I am still young enough that I can see my music just fine... with my glasses. With light. And a perfect angle. Orchestra is 'fun'.

June 25, 2018, 4:08 AM · Thanks very much, Charles!
June 25, 2018, 5:50 AM · OK--Charles, here is my script.

OD sphere +1.75, add 2.00
OS sphere +2.00, add 2.00

Pretty simple, I guess? I have been using 2.75 readers in the hopes of getting more magnification for music--was that a mistake? I can read fine in my progressives, but since I like to read in bed sideways, which makes the progressives not work, I use readers for that, and with 2.00 ones I have to hold the book too far away. Does that mean that the prescription is wrong?

I usually go to Visionworks or one of the other mall stores for eye exams. Are those fine, or do I need to drop real money fro the Vanderbilt Eye Clinic??

Thanks so much for your professional opinion!

June 25, 2018, 6:42 AM · Having said the above, maybe the answer IS 2.00 readers? The 2.75s, which work for reading books, might not work for music b/c the music is farther away than the book??
June 25, 2018, 8:47 AM · The way to buy OTC readers is trial and error. Bring music with you to the store, hold it at the same distance you would normally be from the music stand, and pick the magnification that makes you comfortable.

If you have just normal eyes that need help focusing, this is perfectly valid. Even if you pick a prescription that's a little off, you won't hurt your eyes. If your eyes are unhappy they'll tell you.

June 26, 2018, 8:05 PM · Thanks for setting up the new server!

Elizabeth's eyes are farsighted (hyperopic), meaning that she needs +1.75 in the right eye, and +2.00 just to focus on the horizon, assuming for now that she had absolutely no accomodation amplitude (see below re age). The effective reading power in her glasses is then the sum of the distance precription and the "add". With her current Rx, She would have completely relaxed focus at 1/2 meter using her existing adds, totalling +3.75 R and +4.00 L for reading, but could focus no closer than 1/2 meter. How then can she easily read a book closer than 50 cm with those glasses? - Answer: Accomdation.

Taking age into account, accomodation amplitude dimimishes through life, becoming noticeable at about 45, and it bottoms out at about 1 diopter after 55. If Elizabeth is 55, she might be able to focus a diopter closer than the calculated range above, or at 33cm, by cranking in her remaining a diopter of accomodative near effort. If she is younger, a nearer focus would be possible with less effort.

For music, assume +1.50 in the emmetropic eye is about right. For completely relaxed accomdation (no near effort), Elizabeth would want readers +3.25 right and +3.50 left. An OTC +3.25 would be a good approximation. In practice however, people "like" to accomodate just a little at near ranges, so a little less correction, like +2.75 or +3.00 might feel a little more natural for reading violin music. I'd recommend trying that first. Knowing the Rx, the preferred distance and age, we can narrow the "trial and error" for readers down to about +/-0.50 diopters.

This probably has been technical enough, but also note that in bright light (when the pupils are small), we get a little near boost from greater depth of field, just like a camera. That's why dim restaurants or symphony halls are harder...

Being hyperopic can be really inconvenient for near tasks after 45. while this should not be construed as medical advice, I'd try OTC readers as above first, and if that is uncomfortable, see your eye care provider for prescription single vision readers for music, or better yet soft contact lenses that correct for distance, with a pair of OTC readers over them. As for who to see among eye care professionals, the American Academy of Ophthalmology website (www.aao.org, eye health tab)has guidelines to navigate the sometimes confusing world of eye care.

Hope this helps!


June 27, 2018, 8:29 AM · Thanks, Charles! :-) I am 55. I have been using 2.75 readers, and I guess they work OK, but not great. I will try some 3.0s and up in the store. And I guess I will go to an ophthalmologist to see if they can do any better. I appreciate your help! :-)

One question--is it bad to use higher magnification than one technically "needs"? Can that damage your eyes? I.e., for reading books I would like to have more magnification but have been reluctant to go past 2.75 in case it was bad for me.

June 27, 2018, 8:35 AM · Wanted to add, since you mentioned contacts, that I have been really resistant to the idea of contacts, largely b/c for about 5 years, before my distance vision started to go, I used readers and OMG I hated having them around my neck (like a granny) or in my purse and having to pull them out all the time to read a label in a store. Losing the distance vision was actually good in a way, b/c I got progressives and just left the darn things on all the time! Contacts would put me right back where I was before.
Edited: June 27, 2018, 6:29 PM · It may be that the asymmetry between the two eyes is symptomatic. OTC readers can’t compensate for this but Rx eyewear can. In any case no harm can come from any use of any glasses, apart from blur and/or temporary eye strain.

The higher the power, the closer the focus, and with less range of clear focus, so higher isn’t always better - best to use the lowest power that gets the job done for the intended range without straining to accommodate.

When I’m not playing, I still wear my contacts, but I use progressives that are “Plano” (no power) in the upper part, and a progression to 2.25 in the reading segment. These are thin and light, and can stay on for most tasks. This avoids, in my case, the grandpa effect. They are great for driving for example.

Maybe a visit to a creative eye care provider who is willing to listen to your needs will help with these or other options - hopefully worth the time and $$. It’s never a bad idea to get eye pressures checked etc. in a routine eye exam if not recently done either. Every 2-5 years before 60 and annually after 60 is a common recommendation. I know the Chair at Vandy. I bet you would get excellent care there.

What do I win for guessing you are 55?

June 27, 2018, 8:36 PM · LOL--I did mention my age in an earlier post, above, so. . . No prizes LOL. I usually just go to mall eyewear stores for eye exams (usually timing them so I do it when they offer free exams once a year--thrift R us ;-)). Is Vandy going to be markedly better? I guess you'll say yes LOL. I will find out what it costs. Insurance does not cover it.
June 27, 2018, 9:21 PM · Not necessarily - Where to go, and what you get for what you pay for are perfectly reasonable questions, but not with simple answers. If you’d like to discuss, I’d be happy to, but we should probably spare the other violinists - but please feel very free to email me direct via the email address in my profile.
July 3, 2018, 9:39 AM · I slept on this discussion because I didn't have anything to add. But I loved reading it. I used progressives for years and had no trouble reading music with them. I switched to multiple single prescriptions because the upper part of my progressive lenses were getting scratched and making them almost useless for distance. My midrange prescription is for the computer but they work fine for music and even driving. (But I have a distance pair for driving legally, which is important at night.) I didn't know that cataract lenses were also prescription--I know I'll have to deal with that eventually. I also do quilting and beading. Sometimes I use readers for that, sometimes I use a magnifying visor, and sometimes I don't use glasses at all. It depends. Having very good light is helpful. I was also happy to hear that I'm not the only person who feels they are paying a lot for their glasses. I don't spend a lot on frames but even the lenses are shockingly expensive. I need high density non-glass because my prescription is so strong.
Edited: July 4, 2018, 4:00 PM · I thought I would update this. My first orchestra rehearsal (in 38 years!!) was Monday night, and it was rough. I knew it would be--knew I couldn't play the fast bits up to speed--but I could feel myself staring desperately at the music and not being quick enough. Some of this may be just my brain LOL, but I think at least some of it is eyesight. It's not blurry per se, but it all just seemed to run together. I was desperately focusing on a tiny bit at a time, and missing what was coming up. I think that is because I am trying too hard to see.

So, I plan to make an appointment to see an ophthalmologist with my music and get a special prescription. For now, I have new 3.25 readers, which really help (got those the day after the rehearsal). I also realized that at least part of my problem is that most of our music is posted online and we print it out--on 8.5 x 11 standard paper. The Strauss horn concerto is a real part, and significantly bigger, and man, that makes a difference. So I'm going to enlarge the other parts to the same size. I think that will help.

It was all so easy when I was 15. Sigh.

Re: the rehearsal--It was made worse by the fact that I was one of only 2 second violins, so hiding was not an option. I had practiced, so I was disappointed that I had problems, but as I said, I was well aware that I wasn't playing up to speed, so I guess it was unreasonable to expect a miracle. ;-) My original plan was to wait to join an orchestra until I had been "back" for a year, but I got shanghai'd due to the fact that they are desperate for strings. Given all that, I guess it went OK, and I figure that was the worst it will be. Things will get better from here. :-)


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