Between the ears

¹ Tinnitus—An experience of sound that originates in the head of its owner, without an external acoustic source. It’s commonly referred to as a “ringing in the ears”

² Hyperacusis—Abnormally low tolerance for sounds.

 

The value of silence and sound is highly underestimated by the majority of our society. One with symptomatic tinnitus¹ can argue that silence equals torture and one with hyperacusis² can argue that silence became a necessity to live a comfortable life. Now imagine experiencing both of these symptoms. “Between the ears” is an investigation on visualizing sound, silence, the interplay between those phenomena and how these are experienced by someone with tinnitus and/or hyperacusis through textiles. 

Visual prints and patterns were created by researching the study of cymatics and experiments with this technique. Associated colors will be achieved by a survey for people with chromesthesia, which is the ability to see colors when hearing sound. Types of textiles will be determined by researching its influence on sound. The final discoveries on these different aspects will be used as sources to create aesthetical textiles and designs, aiming to create positive value as well as awareness to this subject.

“Between the ears” is based on the Dutch saying “tussen de oren”, meaning that the symptoms one experiences are psychological – not really there. In many cases the nervous system is the phenomenon producing these phantom sounds rather than the ears, considering emotional stress as one of the predominant triggers for symptomatic tinnitus rather than hearing damage. Therefore the problem does emerge from between the ears, but the symptoms are really there. The intense environmental soundscapes and noise pollution to which we are exposed daily have a big influence on our hearing as well as psychological health. With 75% of new cases of tinnitus involving emotional stress as its foremost trigger factor, it seems safe to assume we live in world which is barely at ease, where we are barely at ease.

 

Development

The initial plan was to weave two textiles: one that is sound permeable (with tinnitus patterns) and one that blocks sound (with sound patterns of environmental noise). But after a visit to the Textilelab in Tilburg and various mails with other fabric developers I discovered that weaving your own textile is very costly and not easily accessible. I have tried a few different techniques at home amongst which embroidery, but none gave the results I needed. In the future I will pick up this project by tufting the wall hangings.