Ask the Optician

ASK NOW

Ask the Optician

ASK NOW

Ask the Optician

ASK NOW

What Are Pinhole Glasses?

By Claire Capuano
Reviewed by Beck Jinnette
Beck Jinnette

Reviewed by

Beck Jinnette
Beck has over 17 years of experience in eye care, holding her Certificate IV in Dispensing in Australia.
Pinhole glasses are designed to reduce the amount of light that enters the eye.
pinhole glasses

As the name suggests, pinhole glasses, or stenopeic glasses, have tiny holes poked through an opaque sheet of plastic in place of lenses. 

They are designed to limit the amount of light that enters the eye

The function of pinhole glasses is quite different to standard glasses or contact lenses.

Whereas contacts or prescription glasses redirect and focus light correctly, pinhole glasses reduce the light that comes in.

While some believe pinhole glasses can help certain vision issues like myopia or astigmatism, it is important to note that pinhole glasses are not designed to correct vision.

They are generally used only in a clinical setting by eye doctors to identify specific vision issues.

How do pinhole glasses work?

Pinhole glasses help shield the eye from indirect rays of light. The tiny pinhole-sized perforations restrict the amount of light that enters your pupils.

Less light eliminates diverging rays and reduces what doctors call the ‘blur circle’ on the back of your retina (the layer in the back of the eye that senses light), giving you extra clarity when wearing the glasses.

When a person wears pinhole glasses, the effect on the wearer is similar to that of squinting. 

Since only a narrow beam of light enters the eye, it prevents vision distortion, resulting in a clearer image.

woman wearing pinhole glasses
woman wearing pinhole glasses

Can pinhole glasses improve eyesight?

The short answer is no. Wearing pinhole glasses is not a solution for improving vision. 

Some people claim that pinhole glasses work for treating certain conditions, but there is little scientific evidence to support it. 

Pinhole glasses may improve vision while they are being worn, but they are not practical for everyday use, and can even lead to other vision impairments. 

As discussed, since pinhole glasses work to block part of your direct vision, they may shrink your visual field, reduce depth perception and limit peripheral vision. 

They may also cause images to appear dim or darker than usual. As a result, you cannot wear pinhole glasses while doing certain activities like driving or operating machinery.

If you are experiencing refractive errors, consulting an eye doctor who can monitor and manage your eye health is essential. 

Eye doctors may use pinhole glasses as a diagnostic tool, but they will be able to prescribe you a much more suitable and effective method of vision correction.

DID YOU KNOW?

Pinhole glasses have been around for decades and were invented by Franz Heilborn in 1896. 

DID YOU KNOW?

Pinhole glasses have been around for decades and were invented by Franz Heilborn in 1896. 

Do pinhole glasses reduce eye strain?

There is no evidence that pinhole glasses can decrease eye strain. 

Some clinical trials and studies have shown that instead of leading to clearer vision, wearing pinhole glasses while doing certain activities like reading can actually worsen eye strain. 

Other ocular problems were reported in the same study, including:

  • Discomfort
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Blurred and double vision
  • Trouble concentrating 

If you are experiencing eye strain from too much time behind a digital screen, try wearing computer glasses or doing eye exercises like the 20/20/20 rule.

man suffering from digital eye strain
man suffering from digital eye strain

Benefits of pinhole glasses

Pinhole glasses are helpful for eye doctors who use them as a diagnostic tool to find the source of certain eye conditions. 

They may use pinhole glasses with an instrument called an occluder, which doctors use to cover one eye at a time as you read an eye chart.

If pinhole glasses temporarily reduce any discomfort or allow you to see a more precise or sharper image, that could provide an eye doctor with information about what is causing any vision issues. 

If a person is seeing the same with or without pinhole glasses, this could be a sign of amblyopia (lazy eye).

Pinhole glasses can also help determine whether a person may have myopia (nearsightedness). When someone sees more clearly using the glasses, myopia may be the cause. 

If their vision gets worse while using the glasses, however, that could mean they have a macular disease or cataracts. 

If you suspect you have nearsightedness or other refractive errors, do not test your vision with pinhole glasses yourself. 

There are many factors that determine eye health, so it is always best to speak with an eye care professional.

pinhole glasses on an eye chart
pinhole glasses on an eye chart

How effective are pinhole glasses?

While some believe pinhole glasses may aid in treating certain vision issues, there is no evidence to support this. 

According to the