The average person has a visual acuity of 20/20. A score of 20/5 means you can see things at 20 feet most people can't see until they're standing 5 feet away. This type of visual acuity is akin to an eagle’s vision. (Learn More)
There have been reports of an Aborigine man who had 20/5 vision. Despite this, researchers believe this level of vision is not possible in humans.
Surgical procedures can help to improve your vision. And some common surgical procedures (including LASIK) can lead to overcorrection. You will not get to the 20/5 mark, but you may get better than 20/20 scores. (Learn More)
Life With Eagle Vision
As part of an annual eye exam, your doctor checks your visual acuity. You look at a chart filled with letters, and you call out those you can see. A normal eye gets a score of 20/20. While birds can't take the same test, researchers use experiments to test their vision. Results suggest they can see with 20/5 acuity.
Overall, it's not possible for humans to get to 20/5, researchers say. That's due to:
- Brain capacity. Birds devote a huge amount of space to visual processing. We would need to match that to get to 20/5.
- Eye structure. We would need more cells in the retina, located in the back of the eye, to gather that much data that quickly.
- Eye movement. We would need to swivel our heads constantly to make the most of our newfound powers.
If we had that vision, it might not change how we handle routine tasks like reading or working on a computer. But we would have exceptional abilities in terms of distance work. Driving, flying an airplane, or doing similar tasks that involve seeing things far away could get a lot easier.
It's important to note that 20/20 vision is impressive. Experts say that the low-vision label isn't applied unless people have a visual acuity of 20/70, especially if that can't be corrected with glasses, contacts, or surgery. You don't need eagle eyes to see well.
But it can be interesting to think about what life might be like if we could see things others need more time to perceive.
Can Surgery Help?
While doctors can use glasses and contacts to amend vision, those solutions aren't typically used to give you better-than-average vision. (If you need to see things sharply at a remove, you could use binoculars or some other magnification device.) But surgical techniques can result in better-than-average vision.
Overcorrection means that the targeted correction is missed, and this can be done intentionally or unintentionally. Overcorrection is a relatively common side effect of LASIK, Harvard University says. Sometimes, the overcorrection stabilizes after a few months.
People potentially end up with 20/15 vision after LASIK, but 20/5 vision isn’t a realistic goal.
There are many types of eye surgery. During one form of LASIK procedure, your surgeon will:
- Take measurements. The surface of your eye has dips and valleys. Mapping those before the cutting begins can result in a very precise surgery, and that's critical.
- Cut a flap. Your doctor will make a tiny flap in the front of the eye and fold it back.
- Apply the laser. The machine sits on top of the exposed tissue, and it cuts according to the map.
- Return the flap. When the procedure is done, the flap is popped back down so the eye can heal.
After your surgery, you’ll take a visual acuity test. But as the American Refractive Surgery Council points out, there are many other measurements that can lead to success. You may not have eagle vision, but you may have:
- Better vision in rough conditions. Smoke, rain, and dry conditions can make wearing glasses or contacts difficult. You might not need either solution after LASIK.
- Fewer monthly costs. After surgery, you may not need to buy contact solutions or glasses cases.
- Improved hobby experiences. If you play basketball, knit, or consider yourself an amateur photographer, crisp vision is important to you. Surgery could make engaging in the things you love more enjoyable.
Surgery isn't right for every person and every eye. Your doctor will need to assess your health before the procedure starts.
Remember that you won’t get 20/5 vision from LASIK. Doctors don’t make this a goal of surgery. The goal is usually 20/20 or 20/40 vision.
What Else Can You Try?
Given that it's impossible for surgeons to move your acuity to 20/5, it's no surprise that you can't make that change naturally. Our bodies aren't meant for this type of vision. But there are things you can do to improve your eye health and vision scores.
Start by preserving what you have. Experts say excessive sunlight, poor nutrition, a lack of exercise, and other lifestyle issues can lead to poor eye health. If you're not careful to surround your eyes with health, you can leave yourself open to diseases like glaucoma that can steal your vision. Make your eye health a priority, so you don't lose ground.
Some researchers suggest that you can use apps and other online tools to help improve your brain's performance. Your eyes rely on a tangle of nerves and neurons to push messages to your brain. The quicker you can encourage those messages to move, the better you might score on a standard test.
Research on brain health, speed, and eyesight is somewhat new. There are no universally accepted tools everyone should use. But it's something to discuss with your doctor as you strive for ideal vision.
What if Humans Had Eagle Vision? (February 2014). Live Science.
Low Vision and Legal Blindness Descriptions. American Foundation for the Blind.
LASIK Candidate. Harvard Medical School.
What Is the LASIK Success Rate? (October 2017). American Refractive Surgery Council.
10 Ways to Improve Your Eyesight. Healthline.
A Neuroscientist Has Developed an App That Gives you Superhuman Vision After Repeated Use. (February 2014). Mic.