How to test your vision at home
Over the last three years, when services have been limited and our time at home has sky-rocketed, many of us have turned to DIY approaches to everyday tasks. From haircuts to home gyms, our capacity for self-dependence has definitely been put to the test.
But being stuck indoors can have other implications – particularly when it comes to our health. For example, spending extended amounts of time in dry environments can cause strain on our eyes, drying them out and potentially causing damage. Our increased use of screens may also pose a threat to our vision.
So, if we can cut our own hair, and improvise our own gyms, can – and should – we take this approach further.
For example, can we test our vision at home, and if we can, how do we do it?
The quick answer is: Yes! But, as usual, there is more to consider. First of all, it is important to note that testing your vision at home is not a suitable alternative to going in and having a full medical eye examination with a professional. However, it can help to give you an idea of the standard of your vision.
As many eye disorders can be corrected or more effectively treated when caught early, home eye tests are a great way to identify any red flags. That being said, nothing beats a regular eye exam for spotting potential vision problems.
Take a look below for a rough guide on performing an at-home DIY vision test on adults and children above the age of 3. Please note, children under the age of 3 should always have their eyes tested by an ophthalmologist or another vision care professional.
What you will need
You can find the resources for performing this home eye test here on the American Academy of Opthalmology website. Here’s what you’ll need:
- A paper cup or facial tissue to cover the eye
- A pair of scissors
- A piece of tape or blue tack to put the chart on the wall
- A pen or pencil to record the results
- A tape measure or ruler
- A torch, if available
- A well-lit room at least three metres (ten feet) long
- A printer and the right testing chart
Prepare the test area
First thing’s first, when performing an at-home eye exam, be sure to select the right chart before printing it out from the source above. Secondly, make sure the chart has printed properly – the largest letter at the top of the chart should be just under 23 millimetres (an inch) tall.
Place a chair around 3 metres from a wall with no windows. This is where the person being tested will be sitting. On the wall, use tape or blue tack to stick the chart to the wall, making sure it is in line with the eyes of the person being tested.
Testing a child (3 years or older)
Young children can be notoriously fidgety, which can make tests like this quite tricky. A good tip for getting a child to engage in the test is to describe it like a game – a pointing game, to be exact. You can print off pointing cards and use them to show your child how to point in the same direction that the letters are “pointing.”
For example, try turning the ‘E’ card up, down, left, and right, holding it as close to them as they want until they can point in the four directions without your help. If they typically wear glasses, they should wear them during the test. And if the chart seems too dark to see clearly, you can use the torch to illuminate the test letters.
To begin the test, the child should be sat in the chair holding the cover over one of their eyes (no peeking allowed!).
Point at each of the Es, starting with the largest, and ask them to point in the direction that the letter is pointing. Carry on in the same way until you reach the smallest line that the child can see clearly. Write down the number of this line.
Lastly, repeat the test with the other eye covered. Depending on the age and vision, they may already be tired, so you may want to continue with the other eye at a different time.
Testing an older child or adult
Again, have the person being tested sit in a chair approximately 3 metres (10 feet) away from the chart. You may need to adjust the height of the chart to ensure it is at the same level as their eyes. Have the person cover one of their eyes. Again, if they typically wear glasses, they should also do so now.
Shine the torch on each of the letters in turn and ask the person being tested to read each one aloud. Continue until you reach the letters on the bottom row, or stop when the letters become too small for them to see clearly. Write down the number of the smallest line they can read clearly (this is the smallest line of which they can identify the majority of letters clearly).
Repeat with the eye and record the results under the category left or right eye.
What are normal results?
Typically, by the age of three or four, children will be able to see the 20/40 line of the vision chart. By the age of five, the 20/30 line.
It is important to note that the results of the test can vary on different days. This means you might want to repeat the test over a number of days to give you a better idea of their vision level.
If you or your child can’t see the same line with each eye, we recommend bringing this up with your eye doctor at your next check-up.
If they can’t see the same line with each eye, they may have a problem that is worth bringing up with your eye doctor at their next check-up.
On average, an older child or adult should be able to read the 20/20 line. If this isn’t the case, again, it may depend on the day or conditions. For example, working for many hours at a screen can temporarily affect our vision. But if the results repeat after a few tests, it may be worth arranging to have an examination by an ophthalmologist to determine whether there are any issues.
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