Frequently asked questions

General

Do I need an appointment to look at frames or meet with an optician?
No--feel free to come in anytime we’re open to try on frames and speak with an optician. Dr. Schneider sees patients by appointment only. Same-day appointments are available for emergencies.

Do I need an appointment to have a frame repaired or adjusted?
No appointment is necessary for an adjustment or repair. Glasses purchased through us qualify for free repairs and adjustments for the life of the frame. Depending on the amount of time required to complete the repair, we may ask you to leave the glasses with us.

I have a prescription from another doctor. Can I still purchase glasses and contact lenses from Ballard Optical?
Yes--we accept any prescription as long as it hasn’t expired. We do ask Dr. Schneider to double-check certain prescriptions where something seems out of place or unusual.

What forms of payment do you accept?
We accept VISA, Mastercard, HSA and Flexible Spending cards, personal check, and of course cash. involved in the community?

Doing business locally is very important to me. How is Ballard Optical involved in the community?
Local is important to us, too! Ballard Optical is owned and operated by Dr. Mason Schneider, a Seattle native. Whenever possible we make our lenses right here in the Puget Sound area, either in Olympia or Kent. We never send work overseas, and we are committed to supporting Seattle-area families, businesses, and charities. Your business at Ballard Optical directly affects over 50 Western Washington families. From all of us, thank you.

Eyes/vision

Why is my vision getting worse?
At some point in our lives most of us notice we don’t see as well as we used to. Although there are many reasons for this, it doesn’t necessarily mean your eyes are unhealthy. Most of the time worsening vision is due to physical changes inside the eye associated with aging. If you notice your vision getting worse, don’t wait—schedule an appointment today! Usually we can restore your vision with corrective lenses, and in the rare case of an eye health issue, early diagnosis and treatment are critical for preserving vision.

Why do my eyes hurt at the end of the day?
Eyestrain, particularly for those who spend most of the day at the computer, is a significant issue for many patients. Eyestrain is usually caused by a number of contributing factors including poor posture, poor lighting, improper contrast/brightness settings, emotional stress, low blood sugar, and many other factors. Many times symptoms of eyestrain can be greatly reduced by using a good pair of prescription lenses specially made for your job. None of us can totally eliminate stress at work, but having the right pair of glasses can make the difference between leaving work with a smile instead of a headache.

What is nearsightedness?
A nearsighted patient is sighted for near, meaning they have better vision up close than far away. This is usually due to the actual size and shape of the eye itself and is not considered an eye disease. Depending on the amount of nearsightedness, nearsighted patients can be at increased risk for glaucoma and retinal disease and should have a thorough eye exam every one to two years.

What is farsightedness?
A farsighted patient is sighted for far, meaning they have better vision far away compared to up close. Like nearsightedness, the proportions and shape of the eye itself usually cause farsightedness. Unlike nearsightedness, correcting farsightedness can be tricky. Children who are significantly farsighted can be at risk for poor performance in school due to increased difficulty reading. Patients who are farsighted are most likely to experience eyestrain and fatigue.

What is astigmatism?
Astigmatism simply means the eye is not spherical—it is either longer than it is tall, or taller than it is long. Almost everyone has at least some small amount of astigmatism. Patients with moderate astigmatism have blurry vision and can report distortion, or seeing a ghost image or shadow around objects. Like nearsightedness and farsightedness, astigmatism is usually easy to correct with glasses and/or contact lenses.

What is a cataract?
A cataract is an opacity, or loss of clarity, in the lens of the eye. The lens of the eye is located behind the iris (the colored part of the eye). Cataracts are not painful, but do cause blurry vision, decreased night vision, and increased glare. If we live into our 70s and 80s we will all get cataracts. However, anyone can get a cataract. They can be caused by trauma to the eye as well as certain medications and diseases. A newborn can even have a cataract. Surgery to correct cataracts is usually straightforward and uncomplicated.

What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve—the part of the brain that connects to the eye. Because it affects the optic nerve, glaucoma can lead to vision loss. Glaucoma is painless and does not have any obvious symptoms like red eyes or blurry vision. Patients with a family history of glaucoma or increased pressure inside the eye are at higher risk of developing glaucoma. At Ballard Optical we have the latest cutting-edge technology to diagnose glaucoma as early as possible.

What is macular degeneration?
The macula is part of the retina—the layer of nerves that lines the inside of the eye. The retina is one of the most complicated tissues in the human body. Macular degeneration is caused by changes to the delicate architecture of the tissues of the retina and can lead to permanent vision loss. Like most other eye diseases, macular degeneration must be detected early to preserve as much vision as possible. Patients at higher risk for macular degeneration are those over age 60, those with a known history of macular degeneration in their immediate family, and those who smoke. Additional resources »

What is pink eye?
Pink eye, aka conjunctivitis, is an inflammation of the clear tissue on the front of the eye and inside of the eyelids. The most common form of pink eye is viral in nature and is highly contagious. Not all cases of red eye are as simple as conjunctivitis—some can be quite serious and require immediate attention. If you think you have an eye infection, call as soon as possible for an appointment.

Glasses

How do I know if I need glasses?
Generally speaking, if you are unable to comfortably see things that you need to see or want to see, you may benefit from glasses. In order to determine how much improvement you can expect and what type of vision correction is best for you, a thorough eye examination should be performed to evaluate not only your vision but also your eye health.

How do lenses work?
Corrective lenses work by simply bending light. To observe how this works, partially insert a straight object into a clear glass with water. You will notice that the straight object appears bent. This is because light behaves differently depending on what it is traveling through, in this case air and water. The human eye acts as a focusing system by bending light. Sometimes the components of the eye aren’t aligned properly, resulting in blurry vision. Corrective lenses bend light to compensate for these errors in the proportion and alignment of the eye.

Aren’t most lenses about the same?
In a word, no. Many variables affect the quality of a corrective lens. These include material, coatings, and the methods used to design and make the lens. Any lens will have a certain amount of distortion, or ‘optical noise’. Inexpensive lenses are typically made using outdated materials and unrefined design methods, usually resulting in high levels of optical noise. Modern lens materials and digital lens designs greatly reduce optical noise, resulting in a lens that not only provides clear, distortion-free vision, but is also thin, lightweight, scratch and impact resistant, glare-free, and will last for years.

What is anti-reflective coating?
Anti-reflective coatings are designed to reduce reflections off of a lens. These coatings should be applied to both the front and back surfaces of a lens. When properly applied, a treated lens will provide clearer, crisper vision, particularly when used at night or when looking at a screen or monitor. As an added bonus, when someone looks at you, they will see your eyes through your lenses, rather than a reflection and glare.

What are Transitions?
Transitions are a type of photochromic lens, meaning the lens gets darker and lighter under certain conditions. Photochromic lenses usually require ultra-violet (UV) light to perform properly, although some newer designs will darken when exposed to any light source.

How are lighter/thinner lenses made?
As explained above, lenses work by bending light. Mild corrections require a mild amount of bending. Moderate or high corrections require much more bending. To bend light more, the lens can be modified in three ways: make it thicker, increase its curvature, or change the material. The first two options create lenses that are thick, heavy, and loaded with distortion. We use cutting-edge materials to create a flatter, thinner, lightweight lens that bends light like an older, thicker, and heavier lens. Not only does this greatly improve clarity and comfort of vision, but also provides lenses that are lighter and more cosmetically appealing.

What is a bifocal?
A bifocal is simply a lens with two different optical powers. A distinct line separates these across the front of the lens where the lens changes curvature.

How does a progressive lens work?
A progressive-addition lens, or PAL, is often referred to as a ‘no- line bifocal’, and is usually used for patients who have different prescriptions for far away and close vision. Like a bifocal or trifocal, a PAL incorporates different prescriptions at the top and bottom of the lens. Unlike a bifocal, a PAL does not have a line across the lens, but instead works by varying the curvature of the lens from top to bottom. Early PAL designs were known for peripheral distortion and narrow corridors of clear vision. Modern PAL designs are much improved and produce minimal amounts of peripheral distortion and much wider, more comfortable areas of clarity.

Why is frame choice important?
Choosing the right frame is not only important from a cosmetic standpoint, but also from an optics perspective. The frame must position the lens in the correct place in relation to your eyes to give you the best possible vision. A frame that puts the lens too close or too far, or one where the pupil is not centered in the lens will result in uncomfortable vision. Our highly trained opticians will help you select a frame that is not only flattering and well made, but one that will give you the clearest, most comfortable vision possible.

Contact lenses

Can I wear contacts?
Usually the answer is yes. In most cases, the deciding factor is patient motivation, not the characteristics of the eye.

How do I start wearing contacts?
The first step is to schedule a contact lens evaluation. At Ballard Optical this is usually scheduled in conjunction with a comprehensive eye exam. During the evaluation we will work with you to determine your goals for wearing contact lenses as well as what lenses are best for you. We will teach you how to insert and remove the lenses as well as how to clean and store them. Once you are comfortable handling the lenses, we’ll ask you to ‘test drive’ them for a few days to see how they perform in your day-to-day activities. Once you have had a chance to evaluate the lenses in the real world, we’ll see you for a follow-up visit to determine if the lenses are meeting your expectations.

What are the different types of contact lenses?
Generally speaking, most contact lenses can be divided into three categories: rigid gas permeable (RGP), soft, and hybrid. Most patients wear some type of soft lens including daily single use, extended wear, toric, aspheric, colored, multifocal, and other types. The lens that is right for you depends on your goals for wearing contacts as well as the health and shape of your eyes.

How should I clean my contacts?
In most cases, contact lenses should be cleaned every night. For specifics on how to clean your contacts, please call and speak to Dr. Schneider or one of our opticians.

Aren’t most contacts basically the same?
In a word, no! Today’s contact lens patient has more lens options than ever before. Lenses vary by size, shape, material, edge profile, oxygen transmissibility, and optical design, as well as wearing and cleaning schedules. At Ballard Optical we are committed to helping you find the right contact lens to help you meet your individual needs and goals.

Why do my lenses always dry out?
The biggest reason patients discontinue contact lens use is discomfort and dryness. Reasons for lens dryness can be complicated and varied, including tear chemistry, medications being taken, environment the lenses are worn in, lens material, cleaning solution, and many others. If you are experiencing or have experienced contact lens dryness and your goal is to comfortably wear contacts, make an appointment with Dr. Schneider. He will work with you to develop a personalized plan to help you achieve a comfortable contact lens experience.

What are hybrid lenses?
A hybrid lens is essentially a rigid contact lens surrounded by a soft contact lens. Rigid lenses are ideal for patients with astigmatism, but can be very uncomfortable. By surrounding the rigid lens with a soft lens, patients can enjoy the visual crispness and consistency rigid lenses provide along with the comfort of a soft lens. At Ballard Optical we are pleased to offer our patients lenses from Synergeyes, the industry leader in hybrid technology.

What is monovision?
In the past, monovision has been used to help patients over the age of 45 to read with their contacts on, without the need for reading glasses. Monovision works by correcting one eye for far away and the other eye for up-close reading. Because the eyes are now assigned to separate tasks, patients report decreased depth perception and night vision. With the improvements in multifocal lens design, many patients are able to read in their contacts while avoiding many of the drawbacks of monovision.

How do multifocal contact lenses work?
Multifocal contacts allow both eyes to see far away and up-close, unlike monovision where one eye sees far and the other eye sees close. Compared to monovision, this improves night vision and depth perception. The lenses are designed with a variable curve on the front that simultaneously gives each eye clear far and close vision.

Why do I need a prescription for contact lenses?
In the United States, the FDA regulates contact lenses just like any prescription medicine. This means that in order to purchase and use contacts, you must have a current prescription from your eye doctor. Because contact lenses vary widely in their design, a contact lens prescription must specify the type of lens as well as the power. In Washington state, contact lens prescriptions are valid for up to two years.

Can I wear colored contacts?
Usually yes! Contact lenses come in a wide verity of colors and tints. Remember it is much easier to darken a blue eye than to lighten a brown eye. Let us know during your next appointment if you would like to try colored contacts.

Insurance

What is the difference between vision and medical insurance?
Vision insurance usually contributes some amount towards a yearly eye wellness exam and hardware, such as glasses, and/ or contacts. Vision insurance does not cover any diagnosis or treatment of health issues related to the eye. If your visit with us is related to management of an eye health condition we will bill your medical insurance.

What does my insurance cover?
Insurance plans are as individual as the patients who use them. While we are very familiar with some insurance plans, the best source of information regarding your specific coverage is to speak with your insurance company directly. There is usually a contact number printed on your insurance card.

What is a co-pay?
A co-pay is an out-of-pocket fee determined by your insurance company. Any doctor’s office contracted with your insurance company is required to collect your co-pay. Most offices including Ballard Optical require any co-pay to be paid at the time of service. Due to the recent changes in health care legislation, we have observed co-pays increasing, along with deductibles.

What is a deductible?
Most insurance plans have an annual deductible, or an amount the insured person must pay out of pocket before certain insurance benefits kick in. Depending on your specific plan, some services may not count towards the deductible including preventative care. For example, a certain plan may have a $2000 deductible with a $40 co-pay, and an 80/20 plan after the deductible has been met. This means that after the insured person reaches an annual amount of $2000 in related billings, the insurance plan will pay 80% of the allowable cost, and the patient will be responsible for 20%. Each visit has a $40 co- pay (see above). This is just an example—please contact your insurance company for information about your specific plan.

What is a health savings account?
A health savings account (HSA) is a type of tax-advantaged medical savings account. Other types of medical savings accounts include flexible spending accounts (FSA) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA). Some of these plans allow members to defer a certain amount of their income into an account usable for health-related expenses. Sometimes these contributions are tax-free. At Ballard Optical we are familiar with most HSAs and FSAs as many of our patients use those funds towards glasses and contact lenses. For more information on tax-advantaged medical savings accounts speak to your HR representative or insurance advisor.

Why doesn’t my insurance cover contact lenses?
Most vision insurance plans consider contact lenses as an elective cosmetic item. From the perspective of the insurance company it makes more sense to correct your vision with glasses rather than contacts. Some patients require special medically-necessary contacts to achieve good vision. In these cases, some medical insurance plans may contribute an amount toward the fitting and lenses.

What does ‘out-of-network’ mean?
In order for a doctor to bill an insurance company for services rendered to a patient, that doctor must be contracted with that particular insurance company, or in-network. If the doctor you are seeing is not contracted with your insurance company, that doctor is considered as out-of-network. Most insurance plans have a provision for patients to see out-of-network doctors. Check with your insurance company to see if you have or need out-of-network benefits.

Privacy Policies

Does Ballard Optical share my personal information with anyone?
The use, collection, storage, and dissemination of personal information such as addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, birthdays, and personal health information are governed by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. HIPAA requires us to obtain written consent from you to share any personal health information unless the other party is directly involved in your health care. In these cases no consent is necessary. If you wish to read a complete copy of our privacy practices please ask a receptionist.

Do you need my written permission to share my personal information with one of my other doctors?
No—HIPAA allows doctors directly involved in your health care to freely share information about you without your written consent.

Why do you need my social security number?
Insurance companies identify you by your social security number. In order to submit bills to your insurance company we also need your social security number.