Listening with Tinnitus


  • Marie Thompson



Listening has often been a source of philosophical interest; and there are a growing number of publications and artistic projects dedicated to its ethical potentiality. Yet what tends to be assumed in this work is an unimpaired ‘normate’ listener. With reference to the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis and Carl Craig’s art installation Party/After Party (2020), I ask: What does listening with tinnitus serve to amplify, distort, and reconfigure in relation to ‘normate’ philosophies of listening? Tinnitus, I argue, requires us to take seriously the need to not listen. It also requires an attention to the relationship between hearing capacity, listening positionality, and the geopolitics of the ear. However, despite their limitations, ‘normate’ philosophies of listening can themselves help provide a different perspective on tinnitus. In particular, the recurrent emphasis on listening as a social, ethical, and relational practice provides an opportunity to rethink tinnitus’s attribution as a personal and interior auditory experience. Understanding listening with tinnitus, and tinnitus with listening, can thus generate alternative conceptualisations of both.