This study aimed to determine the eye movement parameter(s) that is primarily affected when fully sighted subjects use plus-lens magnifiers for reading.
Two forms of plus-lens magnifier were used: hand-held and spectacle-mounted. Eye movements were recorded using an infrared limbal reflection system as subjects read passages of text with and without the magnifiers. Data were compared for a young age group and an elderly (education-matched) age group.
For both age groups, a sawtooth pattern of eye movements was observed and reading speed was significantly (p = 0.0001) reduced when using the magnifiers compared with reading without. Forward saccade length decreased significantly (p = 0.0001) and time for retrace increased significantly (p = 0.0001), but fixation durations were unaffected. The form of magnifier had no significant effect on reading speed or eye movement parameters.
The reduction in reading speed that occurred when using the plus-lens magnifiers was primarily a result of decreased forward saccade length.