No, we are not talking about super vision.  “Binocular” not “Bionic”.  Have you ever wondered how you are able to perceive the world around you in three dimensions?  Well, the answer is “Binocular vision”.

Let’s do a test. Look at something in the room you are in with both eyes open.  Notice the object and where it sits in space.  Do you see how you can perceive the wall behind the object you are looking at and see how far away the object is and how far from the wall  the object is as well?  You are seeing in 3 dimensions.  Now cover one eye.  Look at the object again.  With only one eye, do you notice how you have just lost your depth perception?  With one eye, it is extremely difficult to gauge how far you are from an object and how far that object is in relation to other objects.  How would you like to try to drive with one eye?  It would be extremely difficult to do.

Since you are looking at an object with two functioning eye you are using your “binocular” vision.  “Bin-“ from the Latin bini meaning two and “ocular” from the Latin oculous meaning eyes.  Literally “two eyes”.

Since our eyes are spaced apart, you have the advantage of seeing an object from two different perspectives.  You may think that they are only a few inches apart, so what good is that.  Let’s do another test.  Stretch out your arm in front of you with your thumb up like the Fonz and close one eye.  Line up your open eye and your Fonz thumb to an object in the distance.  Block out that object with your thumb.  Okay, without moving, switch eyes.  You can now see the object that your thumb was blocking from your other eye.

When both of your eyes work in tandem, you are looking at the same object from 2 different perspectives, but you only see one object.  Have you ever looked through binoculars (not to confuse things) that were out of focus?  The thing you were looking at was not only blurry, but you say two of them.  Why does this not happen with our two eyes?  The brain is taking both of the flat images (remember how your field of vision was 2 dimensional when you closed one eye?) from two perspective and combining them to create the 3 dimensional view that we see.

So what happens when binocular vision is interrupted?  In a previous blog we talked about a lazy eye, called an amblyopia.  This is when the brain does not process information from an eye, leaving the person with information from only one eye.  There is also an eye turn, called a strabismus.  In this case, an eye is misaligned and in order to not see double, the brain will train itself to ignore the input from the turned eye, leading to a lazy eye.  There are also different types of Myopia caused by different things.  Myopia the technical term from being near-sighted.

The biggest issue, as we have seen, is when both eyes are not teaming together to create a full field of 3 dimensional view, you can only see in 2 dimensions.  This can cause issues, as mentioned with driving, with sports, and with most aspects of everyday life.  Jogging and bike riding are much more difficult, and even walking is hard since you can have hard time gauging how far cars and other people are or even the curb in front of you.

Most of the these binocular vision problems start at a young age, and can also lead to difficulties in school.  Part of the problem is diagnosis, since a lazy eye can look completely normal.

There are several things that can be done for issues with binocular vision.  First, you want to talk to someone specializing in eyes.  Start with your optometrist.  You may end up with at the ophthalmologist.  Another option is vision therapy which is like physical therapy for the eyes.  If you or your children are having difficulties in school or the playground, getting a thorough examination is vital.  Learn about your options.