Life in Harmony: Musical Ear Syndrome

Life in Harmony: Musical Ear Syndrome

Really, what sounds lovelier than a constant serenade of sound, even when it’s not physically present? For some people, it may not be so lovely, especially when an unending melodic soundtrack is their reality. And while hearing the Vienna Waltz over and over again as one man reported his wife experiencing could be delightful, that isn’t always the case. Another woman who experiences this phenomenon of hearing sounds that aren’t there describes her presentation of the condition differently as she was “absolutely sure I could hear trucks and bulldozers working right outside our bedroom windows,” despite living on a quiet country lane.

Let’s explore the condition of Musical Ear Syndrome, an oftentimes frustrating condition.

Auditory hallucinations

These experiences are in fact auditory hallucinations, in which one experiences phantom sensory stimulation in the absence of real sensory stimuli. Of all the sensory hallucinations that humans can experience (sight, smell, taste, visual or feeling), auditory is the most common.

Auditory hallucinations are so common because of the very reason that Musical Ear Syndrome develops. It is a result of hearing loss, where the brain notices a lack of auditory stimulation and reacts by “filling in the blanks,” or providing stimuli where there is none.

Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition in the United States. Moreover, it affects the elderly in more substantial percentages. Older folks with hearing loss tend to live quieter lives, in which auditory stimulation is sharply absent. Of course, another contributing factor may be certain types of medications, which are also disproportionately used by the aged.

Common, but underreported

For fear of being deemed mad, Musical Ear Syndrome is a condition that is hugely underreported. One person suffering from Musical Ear Syndrome reports her fear of telling others of her experience, saying “I was afraid I was going nuts. I never said one word to anyone about the strange music I was hearing because I didn’t want them to think I was crazy.” However, it is also a common condition experienced by approximately 10% of those with hearing loss.

It’s almost always directly linked to tinnitus, which is a ringing or buzzing sound heard but not present. This is a more culturally acceptable form of hearing phantom sounds, which is why the number of those afflicted might be more representative. Current data reports that 50 million Americans live with tinnitus.

You’re not “hearing voices”

There’s a quick rule of thumb to rule out psychiatric auditory hallucinations and diagnose Musical Ear Syndrome: psychiatric hallucinations classically present as hearing voices. This means that a clear voice speaks to or about you and can be engaged in conversation. What’s more, the topics or focus of the voice tend to be personally meaningful.

Comparatively, Musical Ear Syndrome sufferers tend to hear music or singing. If a spoken voice is heard, it is usually indistinct and vague.

Sound it out

One way to alleviate the burden of Musical Ear Syndrome is to expose one’s self to increased audio information. If your brain is dead set on providing you auditory sensory, then you might as well give it what it wants. That means turning up the radio or television, or better yet, socializing with others in conversation. This benefit is twofold as it attacks the silence and also gets the afflicted out of their isolating patterns. Reclusion in the elderly and particularly those with hearing loss is a powerful contributor to feelings of depression.

Speak with your doctor about your current medications if you think they might be a contributing factor in your auditory hallucinations. With their guidance, you can begin to eliminate obvious choices and pay attention to whether your Musical Ear Syndrome seems to be less present.

Be mindful

Another and potentially more difficult way to treat Musical Ear Syndrome is by training the brain to ignore the phantom sounds. This could be as old school as wearing a rubber band around your wrist and snapping it when you begin to hear what isn’t there. Immediately turn on the radio or another audio device and concentrate instead on real sounds that are present.

You might also take a new school approach and begin a meditation practice. Though thought of as new school, meditation is actually an ancient art practiced in many cultures for thousands of years. A steady practice results in more focused control of the brain and its thoughts, thereby teaching you strategies for ignoring the mind’s grand productions.

Visit Us at Hearing Consultants

If you’ve been experiencing issues with hearing, schedule a hearing test with us at Hearing Consultants. Our experienced audiologists will work with you to find a solution for your hearing needs.

Recognizing the Signs of Hearing Loss

Recognizing the Signs of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is not difficult to diagnose, but many people live with hearing loss for years before receiving a diagnosis and pursuing treatment such as hearing aids. In fact, it takes an average of seven years for someone to seek treatment for their hearing loss, from the time they first notice it. There are many reasons for this delay, from fear of looking old to disbelief that hearing aids can help. Hearing loss also occurs gradually in most cases, so it is not uncommon for a person to fail to recognize the loss until it has become more significant.

Numerous studies have shown that the earlier hearing loss is treated, the better. Hearing aids not only make it easier to communicate–they also help to preserve one’s general health and well-being, quality of life, relationships with loved ones, and cognitive function. That’s why it is critical to recognize the early symptoms of hearing loss and seek treatment right away. If you think you or your loved one might be suffering from hearing loss, read on to learn more about the symptoms and signs.


Social Signs of Hearing Loss

You may have a hearing loss if you have experienced these problems in social situations:

• You commonly need people to repeat themselves.
• You have a difficult time following conversation with more than two people.
• You often feel that other people are mumbling or that their voices sound muffled.
• You have difficulty understanding women and children (who have higher-pitched voices).
• You struggle to understand speech in noisy situations such as crowded public places, restaurants and malls.
• You and your family members have arguments because you turn the TV up too loud.
• You often respond to questions inappropriately.
• You have a hard time understanding others when you can’t see their faces.
• You have started to watch people’s faces more intently when they talk to you.
• You find that telephone conversations have become more difficult.
• You can hear speech but are not able to understand every word in a conversation.
• You have been told that you speak too loudly.


Emotional Signs of Hearing Loss

If you are suffering from hearing loss, it is not uncommon to experience some or all of these feelings:

• Stress and exhaustion from the effort of trying to understand speech all day.
• Annoyance at others because you have trouble understanding them.
• Embarrassment due to misunderstandings in conversations; hesitation or embarrassment about meeting new people.
• Anxiety about not being able to understand other people.
• Withdrawal from social situations that you once loved because of your hearing problems.
• Increasing distance between you and your loved ones because of difficulty communicating.


Medical Signs of Hearing Loss

Although there are commonly no obvious physical symptoms of hearing loss, here are a few things to watch out for:

• A ringing in the ears that comes and goes. This could be tinnitus, a very common side effect of hearing loss.
• A family history of hearing loss. (This may make you more predisposed for hearing loss.)
• A history of taking medications that are “ototoxic” (medications that can harm the hearing).
• A history of diabetes, heart, circulation or thyroid problems.
• Previous exposure to very loud noises over a long period or one exposure to explosive noise.


Things to Keep in Mind about Hearing Loss

In most cases, hearing loss worsens over time. The symptoms may be difficult to recognize initially.

It is not unusual for people with hearing loss to first blame their hearing problems on the way others talk. They might remark that they would hear better if others wouldn’t mumble so much, or that people talked more clearly when they were younger.

A person’s friends and family often recognize the hearing loss before they do. Sometimes they recognize the signs long before, and need to convince the hard of hearing person to have their hearing tested.

People with hearing loss often don’t realize what they don’t hear, such as soft household noises or the chirping of birds. They may only be aware that they don’t understand speech as well as they used to, saying “I hear you but I don’t understand you.”

If you think you might have a hearing loss, the first step is easy. Visit us at Hearing Consultants for a consultation and hearing test today.