Why can’t I see screens when wearing sunglasses?

Many of us have experienced the difficulty of viewing digital screens while wearing sunglasses. This common issue isn’t just a matter of dimmed lighting but involves several technical aspects of both the sunglasses and the display. Let’s explore why this happens and how you can address it.

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1. Polarisation and LCD Displays

  • Polarised Lenses: Many sunglasses come with polarised lenses, which are designed to reduce glare from reflective surfaces like water or roads. They work by filtering out horizontal light waves.
  • LCD Screen Technology: Most digital displays, such as those on smartphones, tablets, and laptops, use liquid crystal display (LCD) technology. LCD screens also use a form of light polarisation.

2. The Polarisation Conflict

  • Crossed Polarisation: When you view an LCD screen through polarised sunglasses, the orientations of the polarisation in both the display and the lenses can conflict. This can cause the screen to appear very dark or even completely black.

3. Sunglasses Tint and Display Brightness

  • Dimming Effect: The tint in sunglasses, which reduces the amount of light reaching your eyes, can also make it harder to view screens, especially in already low-light conditions.

4. Solutions and Workarounds

  • Adjust Screen Orientation: Sometimes, simply rotating your display (from portrait to landscape or vice versa) can reduce the polarisation effect and improve visibility.
  • Increase Screen Brightness: If possible, increase the brightness of your device to counteract the dimming effect of your sunglasses.
  • Non-Polarised Sunglasses: If you frequently need to use the display outdoors, consider using non-polarised sunglasses for these activities.

5. Consider Your Needs When Buying Sunglasses

  • Activity-Specific Eyewear: If viewing digital screens is a regular part of your outdoor activities, consider this when purchasing sunglasses. Opt for lenses that strike a balance between glare reduction and screen visibility.

Conclusion

Viewing digital displays while wearing sunglasses can be challenging due to the interaction between polarised lenses and LCD technology, as well as the general dimming effect of tinted lenses. By understanding this interaction and considering your specific needs, you can choose sunglasses that provide comfort without overly compromising screen visibility.

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