Depth Perception: don’t drop the ball on this!
There are many terms related to our vision that we have probably heard of, but their real meaning often remains a mystery. Depth perception might be one of them. Commonly used among ophthalmologists, it is an important point of reference to gauge if we are suffering from a visual impairment.
These might be just a couple of the telling signs that the problem could be located within your depth perception. Find out everything you need to know!
What is depth perception?
Depth perception is related to our three-dimensional vision: length, width and depth.
As such, it helps us judge the distance, the size and movement between objects. 
What is a typical example of depth perception?
An example of a well-balanced depth perception would be when a person is at a party and is able to precisely gauge the distance of others around them. A person with a distorted depth perception would have more difficulty accurately estimating the distance of other people or surrounding objects.
How is depth perception measured?
Typically, we have accurate depth perception thanks to the team effort of our two eyes (also called binocular vision). Through an incredible process known as convergence, both of our eyes capture different angles of vision which our brain, in turn, compares and proceeds to create a single and more complex image.
In ophthalmology, when depth perception is accurate and the eyes and the brain work well together, it is called stereopsis.
When people have what is termed monocular vision (for cases where the vision relies mainly on one eye), depth perception might become a little bit more difficult. However, with time and if the monocular vision is persistent, the brain slowly adjusts to this limitation.
Why is depth perception important?
Our depth perception is a very important element of our lives as it allows us to understand our surroundings and act/react accordingly.
Have you experienced the feeling that an object seemed to be further away than it really was? Have you ever felt unsure about the real distance of something?
In cases such as this, depth perception might not be perfectly balanced. Right now, you might be trying (as we did) to gauge the different distances of objects in your surroundings.
There’s no need; there’s an easier way to do the test!
What’s the simplest way to test depth perception?
Depth perception is a more common problem than we might think as, in many cases, it goes undetected for years. Luckily, there is an easy test we can all perform from the comfort of our homes.
Here’s what we need to do:
- Hold your index finger extended 20 cm from your head (6 inches) with the red dot (on the screen) in the background.
- Focus on the red dot. Ideally, you should be able to see two faint images of your finger, one on both sides of the dot. The dot should appear clearly.
- After doing this, change your focus to your finger, keeping it in the same position. Your depth perception is working perfectly if you can see two faint red dots, one on either side of your finger.
It is always good to keep in mind that even if online tests can be helpful, they are never 100% accurate and it is always recommended to see a specialist in order to diagnose any possible problems.
What causes depth perception to be off?
Depth perception problems can be caused by many different elements as they are usually linked to other potential eye issues.
According to the AAO, the most common conditions that might cause depth perception problems are:
- Strabismus: this condition refers to when our eyes do not line up to the same point; instead they seem to focus in different directions.
- Amblyopia: also known as lazy eye. Typically a problem in babies and young children, it usually happens when the vision in one eye doesn’t develop as it should.
- Trauma to one eye: although some injuries are visual, there are others, like a detached retina, that can only be diagnosed by a specialist.
- Blurry vision in one eye: When the vision in one of our eyes is not as sharp as in the other one.
What are other signs of a poor quality of depth perception?
There are other common symptoms that might tell us that our 3D vision (also known as stereo vision) is not very accurate:
- Clumsiness (Although don’t worry, some of us might be a little bit clumsy by nature, even if our depth perception is functioning perfectly!)
- Poor spatial awareness
- Difficulty reading or practicing certain sports
How best to improve depth perception?
As we have previously recommended, the best advice should come from a professional eye doctor. A specialist will be able to diagnose potential vision impairments and assign the correct treatment. Some of the most common treatments involve prescription glasses or using a technique called “patching”: where the stronger eye is covered to force the weaker one to catch up.
Alternatively, if we’re spending long periods of time in front of digital screens, it is also recommended to take frequent breaks, and to protect our eyes as much as possible from overexposure to blue light.
Have a look at our Blue light glasses full collection!