TAMPA, Fla. - When Joan Fox is enjoying a good book while waiting for her flight at Tampa International Airport, she says the only way she can read now is with glasses. "I was always losing my reading glasses so I didn't want to invest in reading glasses so I just thought of using magnifying glasses," said Fox.
But what if she, and the 100 million people in the U.S. suffering age related changes to the eyes, didn't have to rely on specs at all, and instead retrained the brain to see smaller words and images? That's the idea behind this new app called Glassesoff, which is being used to improve the image processing part of the human brain.
"It's something called perceptual learning which is training your brain to recognize and get used to seeing smaller letters or objects," said Dr. Edgar Espana, an ophthalmologist with USF Health. Dr. Espana says the app has exercises on it, for example, a bunch of capital E's pop up on the screen. On the app, you look at the one in the middle and then tap the direction the center E is pointing. Trick is, the E's keep getting smaller.
CLICK THE VIDEO TO WATCH THE DEMONSTRATION.
To complete the program, users need to spend 12-15 minutes per day, three times a week, for about three months. The makers of this app say they have scientific studies to back it up. In one study carried out at the University of California at Berkeley, all subjects who completed the Glassesoff program were able to read standard newspaper font size without the use of reading glasses, while improving their "eye age" by an average of 8.6 years.
"I don't think there should be any side effects because you're just playing with lights sort of, kind of like a video game, Doctor Espana says.
The app is free for a trial period. If you want to continue - it's about $59 for the full version. But the doctor says surgical procedures to improve reading aren't perfect and they are more expensive, so he'd give the app a try.