Sleuthing for Specs

Optician extraordinaire Sheena Taff shares 4 steps for channeling your inner detective to lead to the ultimate frame-finding experience for your customers.


To be an effective optician, you need to be adaptable and be able to wear many different hats.

Your patient needs the technical assistance of an optician who can work through a multitude of prescription challenges and the knowledge of a fashion guru who can help transform them into a confident fashionista. The one thing that is essential while manifesting these two different roles is the notion of the undercover detective.

All of us have become our very own Sherlock Holmes and deduced or interpreted what a patient needs and wants.

Patients often have a hard time articulating what type of eyewear style they want and often do not know what type of lenses will meet their lifestyle needs. It is up to us as opticians to look at each patient through an investigative lens and solve their visual needs with the perfect pair of glasses.

Here, we uncover four key steps to take to sleuth for specs with your patients.


Learning what brought your patient into the optical shop is your first clue.

Start by asking open-ended questions. It seems simple, but avoid the temptation of excitedly jumping into frame selection.

Try questions like: What brings you in today? Have you worn glasses before? What do you like most about your glasses? What do you like least about your current glasses? Do you have more than one pair of glasses?


Your patient’s visual needs are much more than numbers on a prescription; they are also the clues in creating a beautiful and technically sound pair of glasses. Equally important is recommending the right style of lens.

Review your patient’s Rx or neutralize their current pair of glasses to get an idea of their prescription. Do they need single vision or multifocal? Ask questions about how they will be using their glasses.

More to consider: Have they worn progressives before or is this the first time? What do they do in their daily life? Does their workday require lots of time on the computer or other digital devices? Do they spend time outdoors and require UV protection and a larger lens to protect against the elements?


Now it’s time to take the information you have collected and find a frame that best suits your patient’s personality and style and is compatible with their lens needs.

Look at the shape of your patient’s face, consider their bridge, notice the distance between their eyes. Does your patient have a high or low browline?

Show your patients a broad selection of frame shapes. Try working your way from a minimal rimless style to a thinner metal, trying a lighter plastic frame and then something bold and adventurous.

Gauge your patient’s reactions and explore different frame silhouettes in the materials that speak to them most.


The last piece of physical evidence we need to collect is the accurate measurements that are the key to our patient’s visual comfort.

Start by adjusting the frame. Nose pads, temple tips, and pantoscopic tilt should all be set prior to taking heights.

Ensure the glasses are set in the position your patient is going to wear them, not where you have placed them. Ask your patient if this is where they would feel comfortable positioning their glasses.

If you are taking manual measurements, ensure you have your patient sit in a natural position. Usually the wearer is on their best behavior, sitting with their shoulders back and neck and head straight. But if this is not their typical position, it can affect where they are naturally looking through the lens. Computerized measuring tools help collect data through movements, which aids in determining the patient’s “natural resting” position.

By using the sleuthing skills of a detective and our expertise as opticians, we have evaluated the information and evidence we have collected from our patients.

We now have all the clues to creating the perfect pair of glasses. We have also formed a connection with our patient, getting to know them better through the process and showcasing our expertise and knowledge as an indispensable asset in the great case of eyewear perfection. —SHEENA TAFF

Look for the next installment on the topic from Sheena Taff in EB’s September issue.