Pinhole Glasses

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Originally appeared in
Earth Star Magazine October/November 2008
By Rosemary Gaddum Gordon, D.B.O., M.A.

“I used to need my pinhole glasses to read the newspaper, but now they don’t seem to work anymore. I can actually read much better without them”. This was not the only vision improvement technique this student had been using over the past nine months, but it was part of the strategy.

Pinhole glasses are black plastic “lenses” with lots of little holes in them. When you put them on it’s like looking through a big screen. If your vision is clearer when you wear regular glasses, you will notice that the little holes help you to see more clearly too. If you have good vision or vision that cannot be improved with glasses, you will see worse.

These funny looking spectacles work by eliminating the need to focus the light as it enters the eyes. Imagine for a moment, light travelling in a horizontal column, like an unsharpened pencil. When it reaches the normal eye the light is refracted or focused – it is brought to a point, (like when we sharpen a pencil), so that it lands on the retina. The plastic of these “glasses” blocks all but the very central rays of light, which go through the holes and there is no need for the eye to do any focusing. (Similarly, the very center of the lead of a pencil does not need to be sharpened.) This allows the eye to relax and just receive the image.

You can try it for yourself. Punch a hole in a piece of paper with the lead of a sharp pencil and look through it without your glasses. Or, roll up your index finger to make a little hole and look through that. Does this trick help you to see what you can’t see without lenses? Squinting the eyes does the same trick, but really tires the eyelids, brows and cheek muscles.

Pinhole glasses cannot replace regular glasses and contacts for most activities. They severely restrict our peripheral vision so we must not drive or ride a bicycle while wearing them. However, they can be very therapeutic when worn for reading, TV or the computer because they allow the eyes to relax and to see. Because so much light is blocked by the plastic, we need to make sure there is good illumination while wearing them. When we take them off, we usually see more clearly, unlike when we remove regular glasses, because our eyes have rested.

These glasses can take some getting used to. We are asking the mind to perceive in a different way. As we adjust, we see the “mesh” less and less. At first, it is best to wear them for only a few minutes at a time. You can build up to using them for a few hours as long as you are comfortable.

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