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Loss of Sound

My last installment of the CONTRAST series is a reversible quilt, representing my experience with hearing loss.

The front design is based on visual depictions of the Doppler effect (sound frequencies change in pitch as the sound moves closer or farther away from the listener). I noticed I was unable to hear certain frequencies years ago. Over time, my right ear lost more and more until I became completely deaf on my right side. My left ear has moderate hearing loss, but still functions.

The black lines in this quilt represent true, clear sound. In between the bold black lines, I used a gray-green fabric with subtle stripes and striations in it. To me, those represent sounds like whispers or individual conversations within a crowd.

The other side represents sounds as they occur to me. The clear, true sounds outside have a lighter, softer effect on me. I used the same striated fabric as shown on the front, but I turned it over to show the "wrong" side of the fabric. This way, the pattern is very faded. Those subtle stripes are almost impossible to identify, the way I find it difficult to pick out voices within a lot of background noise.

I have an opportunity to regain some of my hearing, with cochlear surgery. Over the past couple of years, I've gone back and forth on whether to do it. I often miss parts of conversations. Many times, I use visual cues and guesswork to fill in the information, which has led to some hilarious misinterpretations. The increase in video meetings and mask-wearing has made ordinary communication more difficult. But the thing that has stopped me is that I'm not sure I want to "fix" this aspect of myself. Aside from the inherent risks of surgery, I don't think I want to increase the volume and have no ability to turn it back down. My natural "noise canceling" ear makes it easier to sleep peacefully. Over the years I have learned to pay closer attention to people and tasks in front of me. There are many times when I'm grateful to live in a quiet world.


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