Monovision for Musicians? Pros/Cons?

December 17, 2013 at 05:03 PM · Hi, I'm looking for experiences of musicians who have used monovision correction/enhancement/etc.

I recently had LASIK eye surgery to correct my very nearsighted vision (-7.5 contacts) and have experienced a fluctuation in vision since then... Right now I'm wearing a contact in my right/dominant eye of -1 with astigmatism and can see my music on the stand pretty well but have some trouble using the computer.

At 41, I'm debating the monovision enhancement the LASIK doc & my optometrist are suggesting. What are the downsides? I'm also debating whether to have both eyes adjusted and wear reading glasses, but this seems to defeat the purpose of LASIK.

Your ideas and suggestions are appreciate.



with a -1 on my right/dominant eye

Replies (25)

December 17, 2013 at 08:12 PM · To each, his/her own.

I had PRK back when I was 48. I went for equal correction in both eyes to 20/15. Since then, I've needed a little myopia correction, but I can see music on the stand without glasses. In fact, I have progressives - which makes it interesting to get the right focal length by lifting my head.

Wearing glasses now is not a big deal, since I don't need to wear coke bottle bottoms, any more. I don't need glasses on the computer, either. To my mind, reading glasses are way better than having to wear glasses ALL the time.

December 17, 2013 at 08:27 PM · Thanks, John.

Good thinking. If I need to wear glasses one way or another, it's probably better and more practical to wear the reading glasses. :)

Before you had your PRK, did you have LASIK? I'll have PRK as my enhancement.

And, had you tried the one contact or just decided to go for the PRK?

Thanks, again!

December 17, 2013 at 09:14 PM · I had Lasik about 10 years ago and opted for monovision in my right eye. You can get a sense of how it will feel by getting monovision contacts and wearing them for a while. If you can get acclimated, then monovision is a great way to go. You get both near and far vision (one eye for near, one eye for far). Most people prefer the near vision in their NON-dominant eye, but for some reason, I felt more comfortable with the other eye (e.g., distance vision with my NON-dominant eye, and near vision with my dominant).

Even if you get a very weak monovision in one eye, it is handy not to have to reach for the reading glasses. Mostly, I notice it in dark restaurants trying to read menus with fine print, or when reading medicine bottles with tiny print.

Or here is another idea in case you find yourself in a dark restaurant and don't have your readers. There is an app called Mag Light for the iPhone. I'm sure there are apps for droid too. Basically, it uses your iPhone as a flashlight and a magnifying glass. It comes in handy.

But even with monovision, I still have glasses for computer and reading. The monovision just allows you to see things when you don't feel like pulling out the glasses. But for prolonged reading or computer work, I still wear readers to lessen the strain on the eyes.

December 18, 2013 at 12:53 PM · Before you had your PRK, did you have LASIK?

No - I signed up for LASIK. During the pre-op exam, they found the stroma was too thin for LASIK, so PRK was the only choice.

PRK took longer to recover, but from what I hear, it holds better than cutting the flap. So I'm glad it turned out to be PRK.

And, had you tried the one contact or just decided to go for the PRK?

I definitely wanted both eyes fully corrected, for a number of reasons: bird hunting is way easier, I have floaters (double acuity helps you ignore them better), and I got tired of the daily grind of contacts. Also, since I do lots of photography, being able to see with the off eye while one is in the viewfinder is handy.

Most of all, I just don't like the idea of having any distance vision impairment. When I look at something, I want to see it at 100% with both eyes.

Wearing minimal correction lenses for reading is not a big deal. Just go to Costco or Sam's club and buy a bargain pack or two, then spread them around the house, so you can find them. :-)

December 19, 2013 at 02:05 AM · Thanks, Smiley. Some really good points, too.

I've been wearing one contact in my dominant eye for about 2 weeks now. The great thing is that since my prescription has lessened considerably my contact wearing is now bearable. I had worn contacts until I hit about 37 because they became so uncomfortable. So wearing the one contact is a little more inviting. If I do go the monovision route I would have the PRK done (enhancement after LASIK).

What about when you're rehearsing for more than a couple of hours? Do you have any trouble focusing then?

December 19, 2013 at 02:14 AM · John, yes... I was told PRK would take longer to heal. When I had LASIK, I drove the next day. :)

December 19, 2013 at 02:21 AM · "What about when you're rehearsing for more than a couple of hours? Do you have any trouble focusing then?"

Don't know -- never rehearsed that long :-). Actually, the one thing that affects my vision more than anything is the iPhone. I find that reading and composing emails on that thing really puts a strain on the eyes and things are blurry for the rest of the day if I spent too much time on it. If possible, I always try to wear my readers to reduce eye strain.

BTW, my vision was awesome after Lasik, but it started to deteriorate a couple of years ago. Last year I had my vision checked and it wasn't so bad, but now my right eye is 20/70 and my left eye is 20/40. It's pretty objectionable for someone who is used to 20/15 vision or better. I considered having LASIK or PRK enhancement, but found out that I am developing cataracts. I'm sure it is from the thousands of hours I have spent doing outdoor activities (golf, fishing, windsurfing, etc). So I am looking forward to cataract surgery early next year -- can't wait to get my vision back. Before you get an enhancement, just check to make sure you are not developing cataracts. It would be silly to get Lasik or PRK if the cause of the blurring is cataracts.

December 20, 2013 at 08:44 PM · I never considered cataracts. Funny, my parents were just diagnosed as having them... Will be looking into it.

After almost 2 weeks of wearing one contact (with the correct prx this time around), the monovision feels doable in my situation. We'll see!

December 20, 2013 at 10:15 PM · If you have cataracts, your optician will be able to see them. In my case, she saw the cataracts but sent me to a retinal specialist just to make sure my macula was healthy. Bottom line, before cutting up your eyes, make sure you determine the source of the problem.

December 21, 2013 at 04:52 PM · Now I've looked up "monovision", and although I'm losing near vision due to age, I have doubts about the "mono" idea.

Music reading uses complexe eye movements and extreme concentration, often in poor light, and having to look sideways across shared orchestral parts. Astigmatism does creative things to staves and stems; and progressves only allow a measure at a time without moving the head.

I have opted for a pair of "music glasses": big lenses, special focal length (arm's length plus a bit)

December 24, 2013 at 05:19 AM · Thanks, Adrian! I will ask my eye doc about something like this... sounds interesting!

December 25, 2013 at 06:36 PM · I had monovision LASIK about 6 years ago at the age of 56 and have never regretted it. I use reading glasses only for very small print or extended reading, but 95% of the time I'm eyeglass free and see better than any time in my adult life.

My wife had LASIK without monovision 8 years ago and can't focus on anything within 3 feet of her so she always wears reading glasses. However, she is very happy this way and has no regrets either.

For me, the deciding factor was being told by the LASIK surgeon that if I didn't like monovision I could always have another laser procedure and correct both eyes for seeing long distance.

January 26, 2014 at 09:41 PM · "if I didn't like monovision I could always have another laser procedure and correct both eyes for seeing long distance"


Great point! I will need to double check with the LASIK doctors just to be sure they'll do this (it would be my 3rd surgery with them). Sounds like a good idea.

Right now I've been in two contacts (one with astigmatism correction) for almost a week and I think I can read music a little better at rehearsals, so I'm confused yet again.

I think what I'll do is try for monovision enhancement and then have the "night vision" glasses & see if they help with my reading music. I think the two contacts help me sight read a little better but when using the computer I'm having to blink more often to focus... wish there was some way of avoiding the trial period.

Oh, well! I guess this is part of life... Thanks again for all of the great suggestions and experiences!!

March 15, 2014 at 04:02 PM · >> Most people prefer the near vision in their NON-dominant eye, but for some reason, I felt more comfortable with the other eye (e.g., distance vision with my NON-dominant eye, and near vision with my dominant).

Smiley-- Not sure if you will read this, but I'll give it a try!

I have recently ventured into using my non-dominant eye for distance vision and am really surprised in the difference it's making to read music. My distance vision is "slightly" off, but there seems to be slightly less adjusting for my eyes AND I can read music much better! :)

Do you have any articles of this type of monovision correction?

I had also tried wearing two contacts (for 20/20 vision in both eyes WITH some +1 reading glasses) and found reading music (while sharing a stand) to be a little better, more so after a few minutes of reading music, to help lessen the strain. If enhancing my non-dominant eye for distance helps me read music, this is something I would like to explore more.

Thanks in advance!


March 15, 2014 at 09:37 PM · Hi Carla,

Vision is a tricky thing. The eyes are incredibly precise and the slightest error can result in less than ideal vision. I had cataract surgery 3 weeks ago and am struggling. Near vision is good, but distance vision is not great. I have a hard time reading road signs and people recognize me long before I can recognize them.

Problem is, I had surgery in my right eye and the doc was shooting for plano (20/20 distance vision), but unfortunately, I am about 1.0 diopter near sighted in that eye. I am still hopeful that my vision will improve as the eye is still healing.

Either way, I'm sure I will eventually adapt, but I might need glasses for night driving -- not the outcome I was hoping for, but not the end of the world either.

I was expecting cataract surgery to be a breeze, but it has been a challenge. Recovery from Lasik was much easier. I hope you get the outcome you are hoping for.

March 15, 2014 at 09:42 PM · Regarding the monovision, I was very happy with the outcome from Lasik -- that is, before I developed cataracts. I had just a tad of monovision in my right (dominant) eye, so that eye was slightly near sighted. It was just enough to get me through the day without having to pull out the readers all the time. But it wasn't enough so that eye was completely blurry for distance vision.

Most people like the near vision with the other eye (the non-dominant one), but that varies. I was more comfortable with near vision on the dominant eye and it sounds like you might be too. Either way, your brain will adapt.

March 18, 2014 at 06:29 PM · Does monovision give you trouble with depth perception? I would think that not having stereoscopic vision would be a handicap.

As for me, I've been wearing glasses since I was about 10, so I just moved into progressive bifocals. Look down, the music is in focus. Look up, the conductor is in focus. No surgery, no lasers, no problem.

March 18, 2014 at 07:59 PM · Smiley- Sorry to hear you're having some trouble after

surgery. I hope you continue to heal with time, as you mentioned. Our sight is so important to all of us.

Although I'm pretty sure my dominant eye is my right

eye, I see the music on the stand better with the

contact in my left (non-dominant) eye. This leaves my

distance vision a *little* off. But, I'm currently

leaning towards seeing music better.

The optician at the doctor's office (a pianist) told me she had her non-dominant eye corrected (with monovision) about 10 years ago & was able to read music better than having her dominant eye corrected.

Maybe musicians have better luck correcting their non-dominant eye?

With your non-dominant eye corrected, were you able to

see distance well right away, too? Or, did you need to wait to allow for the adjustment? (I've been wearing the left-eye contact for almost a week.)

Speedy healing vibes your way!

March 18, 2014 at 08:08 PM · Charlie-- Yes, you're absolutely correct. I've heard that a person's depth perception can change after monovision correction. I've also read & was told by the eye docs that for those who drive at night, play tennis, go hunting, etc., feel the effects the most and aren't good candidates for monovision correction.

The advantage of monovision correction is prolonging the need to wear reading glasses for a longer amount of time. So, since I've had glasses since I was about 8 or 9 (& really bad vision), monovision is very appealing & I am able to adjust to it (many aren't able to adjust).

I've really enjoyed having had Lasik. :)

March 18, 2014 at 09:15 PM · I have been extremely nearsighted with mild astigmatism since age six. No LASIK. I don't remember my diopters but without correction I can not only not see the E, I have no idea where the chart is.

I've had monovision contacts (near to middle in left eye, middle to distant in right - dominant - eye) for almost ten years. It has worked great for reading music and seeing the conductor.

Unfortunately, it is becoming clear that I was born with the same muscle imbalance in one eye that has afflicted other family members, only mine was so mild that from earliest childhood I was unconsciously controlling the muscles of the weaker eye, resulting in normal binocular vision. As I age, I am losing the ability to control my weaker eye, and the more tired I am, the worse it gets. This results in double vision. I now have one set of prism glasses set for distance that I use for driving, and another set of prism glasses focused at music stand distance that I use for reading music. It works, but it's a nuisance.

March 19, 2014 at 08:23 PM · I personally do not mind wearing reading glasses or computer glasses. I just want to be able to get through the day without glasses.

For example, if I go into the grocery store, I'd like to be able to read the labels without having to pull out my readers. 9 times out of 10, I forget them anyway. That does not require super clear vision at close up distances, but good enough to make out medium to small print. If I can do that, and be able to see road signs, then that means I can get away with no glasses for the majority of the day. My reading and computer glasses sit near my reading chair or computer table and are ready when I need them. When you are an old fart like me, that is about all you can expect.

To completely eliminate the need for glasses, one eye would have to be pretty near sighted (between 1 to 2 diopters), which would equate to 20/30 or 20/40 distance vision in that eye (pretty blurry), and I think that might bother me quite a bit.

When I did Lasik a number of years ago, I opted for a "slight" mono-vision, about .5 diopters, so I was seeing 20/25 in my near vision eye. That was just enough to get me through the day, but not good enough for reading fine print or for prolonged reading. My other eye was 20/20. With both eyes, I was able to make out the 20/15 line. That really worked out great for me.

March 20, 2014 at 08:35 PM · fyi,

This is a bit off topic, but since I posted about my vision earlier, I though I would follow up with an update.

I went for 1 month follow up today for cataract surgery in my right eye. Distance vision was 20/40 in that eye (-1.25 diopters) and reading vision was 20/20. Doctor is still confident that I have the right prescription in my eye and is hopeful that my vision will continue to improve as my eye heals.

Note: I opted for an accommodating lens called Crystalens. Unlike conventional cataract lenses which have a fixed focus (e.g., clear distance vision, but everything close is blurry), the Crystalens actually allows your eye muscles to change the focal length of the lens, thereby being able to focus both near and far. It is about $3000 extra per eye and insurance does not cover it.

April 6, 2014 at 05:38 PM · Thank you for your update, Smiley. Good info to know.

I just had my PRK enhancement Friday. I went with correcting just my non-dominant eye & leaving my dominant eye at -1.

So far, all seems to be going well. The recovery period is much slower with PRK than LASIK, although the actual surgery was quicker & less invasive (no lifting of the flap). Vision is still blurry but tolerable with corrected eye on day 3... Will try to update later.

April 7, 2014 at 03:54 PM · Fingers crossed for you. My vision after cataract surgery continues to improve. I am seeing 20/25 and still getting better. I am starting to feel pretty optimistic. It is now 2 months after surgery.

May 4, 2014 at 09:25 PM · Well, it's been about 4 weeks since my PRK enhancement and the results are good. Healing has been similar to others' I've read about online... that is, very blurry in the first week or so, to about tolerable over the next few weeks.

I can't imagine having had both eyes done at the same time and can fully understand why LASIK is done so much more often because of the quicker recovery period. I don't think I would've described weeks 2-4 as tolerable... meaning I could drive but had some trouble reading music... if I had both eyes worked on at once.

At my next check up this coming week I will most likely buy a new pair of glasses (I can finally get the thin rims glasses... even the bottom rimless ones). Plus, since my prx is so low the cost is much less. These glasses will just have a prx in my non-dominant right eye which I left a little bit near-sighted. I still really don't need to wear reading glasses but have purchased a $5 pair from the grocery store and will use them when I read for a long period of time. I can read music while sharing a stand pretty well. Since complete recovery is expected in another 2 months, I'm thinking it will only get better from here on out.

Bottom line... I'm happy with my decision to go the monovision route and encourage anyone to try it out. Thanks for all the ideas and comments!

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