What are Pinhole Glasses? Who Can They Help?

5 sources cited
Vision Center is funded by our readers. We may earn commissions if you purchase something via one of our links.

What are Pinhole Glasses?

Pinhole glasses, also called stenopeic glasses, have tiny pinhole-sized dots filling a transparent lens.

Eye doctors commonly use pinhole glasses to screen for uncorrected refractive errors (eye shape disrupts the bending of light) and other vision problems. 

Many claim that wearing pinhole glasses can improve eyesight by reducing symptoms of myopia (nearsightedness), astigmatism (abnormal eye curvature), and presbyopia (loss of ability to focus). However, there is no scientific evidence that they permanently enhance vision.1 

Where to Buy Glasses + Contacts

Best Overall: Warby Parker

Fastest Delivery: EyeBuyDirect

Also Great: Liingo

Best Place to Buy Contacts: 1800 Contacts

How Do Pinhole Glasses Work? 

The tiny holes in pinhole glasses block indirect rays of light from entering the retina (layer in the back of the eye that senses light). Less light in the eye prevents vision distortion, resulting in a clearer image.

The stenopeic principle of pinhole glasses is similar to the effect of squinting. When only a narrow beam of light is allowed into the eye, the blur circle (light rays from each point on an object) is reduced, creating a sharper image. 

When pinhole glasses improve visual acuity, it typically means that a person has an uncorrected refractive error. 

Pinhole Glasses Claims and Uses 

Pinhole glasses are used by eye doctors as a diagnostic tool and are not commonly used outside of the clinical setting. 

In 1993, The United States Trade Commission banned the advertising of pinhole glasses as a way to improve vision permanently.4

Do They Improve Vision?


Pinhole glasses can temporarily improve vision for people with myopia, astigmatism, and presbyopia. However, they are not a treatment for vision disorders and only work while wearing glasses. 

While pinhole glasses create a sharper image, they can disturb other areas of vision by:

  • Shrinking the visual field
  • Limiting peripheral vision 
  • Reducing contrast sensitivity
  • Lacking stereopsis (depth perception)

Refractive errors, astigmatism, and presbyopia are best treated with customized glasses, contact lenses, or LASIK (laser eye surgery).

Do They Decrease Eye Strain?

Some companies advertise that pinhole glasses can decrease eye strain and help exercise and relax eye muscles, leading to clearer vision. However, no evidence supports that pinhole glasses permanently improve vision. 

Studies have shown that wearing pinhole glasses while reading can worsen ocular symptoms, including:4

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

Other Benefits of Pinhole Glasses 

Wearing pinhole glasses while reading or for extended periods can cause eyestrain and headaches. However, there are a few advantages to using them, including:

  • Reduced glare when using a computer
  • Improved depth of focus
  • Increased accommodative amplitude (increase in ability to focus on an object)
  • Improved vision for people with uncorrected visual acuity poorer than 20/20

When wearing pinhole glasses, one must be aware of visual field limitations while driving, playing sports, and working with dangerous instruments and equipment.

Where to Buy Pinhole Glasses 

Pinhole glasses are sold by many popular companies, including Amazon and Walmart, both in the store or online. They are inexpensive and can typically be purchased for less than $10.

Licensed ophthalmologists mainly use pinhole glasses in the clinical setting.

How to Make Your Own Pinhole Glasses 

You can make your pinhole glasses using materials from home. 

The items you will need include:

  • Old eyeglass frames (with the lenses taken out)
  • Aluminum foil
  • A pen or needle

First, cover both the eye holes in the glasses with aluminum foil. Fold it around the frame so it stays in place.

Second, put on the glasses and mark where the pupil of your eye lines up with the aluminum foil. 

Third, take a pin and poke a hole in that spot. The hole needs to be small and round. Put them on and see if your vision becomes clearer. They work best in areas with lots of light, such as outdoors.

Summary

Licensed ophthalmologists commonly use pinhole glasses to determine if you have a refractive error. They work by reducing the amount of light reaching the retina, creating a sharper, clearer image. 

While pinhole glasses can temporarily relieve people of common vision problems (myopia, astigmatism, or presbyopia), there is no evidence that pinhole glasses permanently improve vision. 

Benefits of using pinhole glasses for short periods include sharper images, increased depth of focus, and reduced glare.

Best Places to Buy Glasses

Best Overall

Warby Parker has stylish, high-quality frames at affordable prices.

Also Great

Liingo Eyewear is another great option to buy glasses online.

Best on a Budget

EyeBuyDirect has a wide variety of budget frames starting at $6.

Best Places to Buy Contacts

Best Overall

1-800 Contacts is our #1 recommendation to buy contacts online.

glasses usa logo
Also Great

GlassesUSA has a huge selection of contacts, glasses, & sunglasses.

5 Cited Research Articles
  1. Kim, W., et al. “Quantitative analysis of functional changes caused by pinhole glasses.” Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science, 2014.
  2. American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Pinhole visual acuity,” n.d.
  3. American Academy of Ophthalmology. “2020–2021 BCSC Basic and Clinical Science Course™: Chapter 3: Optics of the Human Eye,” n.d.
  4. Kim, W., et al. “Comparison of objective and subjective changes induced by multiple-pinhole glasses and single-pinhole glasses.” Journal of Korean Medical Science, 2017. 
  5. Instructables Craft. “Pinhole eyeglasses.” instructables.com, n.d.
Vision Center Logo
The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.

All about Vision Center

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram