Aleks is in search of silence. Isobel Anderson suffers from tinnitus and at its peak felt like she was being tortured, or stalked. But the culprit wasn't an external sound that she could switch off; it was inside her brain. Her mind tuned into the inner electrical currents and motions that we all experience, but hers never fade away. Her neurons had made the connections, and so she couldn't stop hearing the sound. She knew there was no such thing as silence but what she missed was being able to control her sound environment.

Jessica Vitak is a writer who lives in London and uses technology to control her sound environment. She wears noise cancelling headphones to drown out the distractions of the city but she admits it does make her shut down a little.

Dr Helen Lees is an Associate Research fellow at York St John University, and for more than 20 years, she argues that being distracted by our screens means we miss out on silent experience between people, the language of silence spoken.

Dr David Toop argues that if we are using technology as a convenience we do not find the noise a problem but if other people are using it can be an annoyance and through time people have always sought out artificial silence.

Leif Haugen is a Fire watcher who spends six months of a year stationed at Toma lookout, on a mountain in Montana. He says only new fire watchers who are at peace with themselves are able to stick it out as living in silence even in the natural world makes you look in wards at who you really are.

In our digital world has silence become harder to find, or are we looking for it in all the wrong places?

Produced by Kate Bissell.

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30 minutes

Last on

Thu 17 Aug 2017 23:30

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Isobel Anderson

Isobel Anderson

Isobel Anderson is a Belfast based musician, originally from East Sussex in England. To date she has released three studio albums, which have garnered over 15 million Spotify streams, but though she loves music and makes a living with sound she suffers from debilitating tinnitus.


Isobel explains what it was like when silence was gone from her life, and how she came to manage the constant ‘passenger’ in her head - tinnitus.

Cavan Campbell

Cavan Campbell

Cavan Campbell is a music teacher, acoustic ecologist, and sound artist Cavan who works with sound and music. One of his recent projects ‘Silence’, centres on his search for ‘natural silence’ by collecting soundscapes from some of the most remote places in Scotland.


We went along with Cavan to see how he captures natural silence, learn why preserving quietness is so important, and how tricky it can actually be to escape the noise pollution of the digital age.


Leif Haugen

Leif Haugen
Leif Haugen is a fire lookout with the U.S. Forest Service. Since 1994 he has spent the summer months observing the forests of northwest Montana from a remote post in the wilderness.
Leif tells us why you need a quiet mind to live with silence.

Dr Helen Lees

Dr Helen Lees
Dr Helen Lees is a Lecturer at Newman University and has been researching silence for the past 20 years and believes that for silence to exist it needs to be framed by noise. 

Emma Smith (WhispersRed)

Emma Smith (WhispersRed)

Emma Smith runs the WhispersRed ASMR youtube channel, one of the most popular UK ASMR channels.


Emma explains how the soft and gentle sounds of ASMR videos can allow people to relax, and provide one space in a frantically noisy digital world to relax and quiet the mind.

Dr David Toop

Dr David Toop

Dr David Toop is an English musician, author, and professor and chair of audio culture and improvisation at the London College of Communication

He tells us that he thinks that silence is relative.  He says that throughout history people have always sought out silence from everyday noise.  He explains that in Victorian times men of letters built themselves sound proof rooms but were then distracted by the slightest noise.  He argues that silence is actually the enemy of peace.

Jessica Vitak

Jessica Vitak

Jessica Vitak is a London based journalist with a particular interest in culture, technology, travel, and art.


She tells us how she discovered noise-cancelling headphones and why she now thinks they may be the ultimate survival tool for modern life.