Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults ages 20 to 74, according to the National Institutes of Health -- and a total of 3.6 million adults with diabetes say they can't see well even with glasses or contacts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
After considerable research and testing, experts overwhelmingly recommend one talking glucose meter as the easiest for sight-impaired people to use: the Prodigy Voice Meter (*Est. $65). It beats four other talking glucose monitors in a study published in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, and it wins awards from both the National Federation of the Blind and American Foundation for the Blind.
The Prodigy Voice "not only is codeless and talks, but is ergonomically designed to be set up, calibrated, and reliably operated by patients who are totally blind," writes Dr. A. Paul Chous at DLife.com. Chous is an optometrist specializing in diabetic vision problems, who also has diabetes himself.
"Buyer beware!" says Connie Kleinbeck, a diabetes educator who compares six talking glucose meters for the National Federation of the Blind. While other talking meters "are being aggressively marketed to blind and low vision users… you will find that you need sighted assistance to use essential functions such as time and date, and memory review on many of these products."
Experts say the Prodigy Voice blood glucose meter works just as well for blind people as regular meters do for sighted people. It talks the user through every feature (including memory readings and warning/error messages), with a volume control and headphone jack for discreet use. Helpful touches include a "repeat" button, downloadable software for tracking your blood sugar over time, and no test-strip coding is required. The Prodigy Voice is compact, and its test strips (*Est. $17 for 50) are reasonably priced. It allows alternate-site testing (palm, forearm, upper arm, calf and thigh), stores 450 tests in its memory and offers free, downloadable computer software to help you track your blood sugar over time. Ann Bartlett, a board member of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation who tests talking glucose meters at HealthCentral.com, adds that the Prodigy Voice can also help people with dyslexia, giving "both a visual and audio sample to prevent recording the wrong number."
Various studies find the Prodigy Voice blood glucose monitor easier to use than other talking meters from Advocate, Companion, Clever-Chek and Smartest Smart Talk, as well as other Prodigy meters that don't have the full range of audible features. A talking glucose meter introduced last year, the Solo V2 (*Est. $60), has all of the Prodigy Voice's features plus a bigger screen and a warning message when there's not enough blood on the test strip. The Solo V2 earns a recommendation from David Mendosa at HealthCentral.com, but our other sources haven't reviewed this new meter.