I’ve always been drawn to color and how it can convey mood. My interpretation of color is deeply influenced by two competing aspects: having mild auditory/visual synesthesia, and significant hearing loss (40%) in my left ear.

Synesthesia is a neurological phenomenon where one sense triggers another sense and it comes in a lot of flavors. In my case, it is having color association when hearing sounds, especially music. I didn’t understand this until I was a teenager, when I described a song as being “especially purple” and my friends pointed out they had no idea what I was talking about. It’s been useful in a few ways, like learning music and memorization, but it’s been most important to my art practice. It’s easy to “lean in” to this natural sensation to me to help select and mix colors.

A person who has intense synesthesia can have associated colors with each musical note (F# is lime green, for example). Mine is not quite like that; it’s more of a pull than note-dependent. Musical tones have colors for me, so listening to a song almost always has at least one color associated with it, sometimes multiple depending on how the musician composed the piece. I listen to music when I paint, almost exclusively, and spend a great deal of time selecting the tone of the music I want to match the painting I have in mind.

This sensation is also warped because of my low-frequency hearing loss. I have so much appreciation for the sounds and tones I hear that it really makes me attuned to the sounds that do reach me, and a craving for those that do not. During most of the day, I wear a hearing aid, but frequently paint without it (probably with the audio too loud). My work leans darker, and there’s a part of me that thinks this is a reflection of missing low-frequency sounds without assistance.

Overall, I think synesthesia and hearing loss combined together to create a unique perspective in the world I am honestly grateful for.

If you’ve made it this far, consider donating to the American Hearing Research Foundation.

March 02, 2023 — Carrington Moore