Friday, February 28, 2014

Phantom Music

I haven’t written a blog here in a while for several personal reasons but it is time to shake off the shackles and write again so here goes…
Musical Ear Syndrome!  Or as I like to call it, phantom music.  Musical Ear Syndrome is a form of non-psychiatric auditory hallucination, also called Musical Hallucination or Musical Tinnitus.  Most people have heard of tinnitus, or ringing in the ears.  It is a perception of sound when none exists.  Musical tinnitus (or Musical Ear Syndrome) is when that sound is perceived as music.  Usually, victims hear musical noises ranging from vocals to instrumental music, and some even hear announcers or commercials.
Most people don’t talk about it because they are afraid of being accused of being mentally unstable or psychotic.  This might be a good time to talk about psychiatric auditory hallucinations.  Psychiatric auditory hallucinations are generally defined as voices talking to the victim (on a personal level), usually associated with schizophrenia or mania.  There can also be medical reasons for some auditory hallucinations, such as brain lesions or medication side effects.  Musical Ear Syndrome (or MES) does not fall into these categories.
As I mentioned above, most people don’t talk about it because they don’t want to be considered crazy.  But MES is becoming increasing recognized as separate from other auditory hallucinations making it easier for people to discuss it.  Experts believe that MES is related to hearing problems, and usually (but not always), is experienced by those with hearing loss.
I started googling this subject because I have experienced this phenomena myself.  Let me start by stating that I have a HUGE problem with insomnia.  Every few weeks, I have extreme difficulty getting more than a couple of hours of sleep several nights in a row.  I become an extremely light sleeper, and can be awakened by the slightest sound.  I have been awakened by the sound of the refrigerator coming on in the middle of the night, in the kitchen when I am in the bedroom, on a different floor!  In order to combat this, I turn on a fan in the room to help mask normal nighttime sounds.
Then, occasionally, I would be awakened by music.  I would assume it was my clock radio coming on - I would reach for the alarm clock and notice that it was hours before I needed to get up!  So where was the music coming from?  I would try and hunt the phantom music down but it was faint and difficult to trace.  The music was not coming from my clock radio, it wasn’t the neighbor, nor was it anything I could find to turn off!  The phantom music would last for a period of time lasting from about thirty minutes to a couple of hours.  I would get so frustrated!
I finally complained to my sweetie, and she googled it and told me about MES.  After researching it myself, I realized that my phantom music was triggered was my fan!  The item I used to mask noise was causing the phantom music that woke me up and kept me up!  It was such a relief to know that there was this thing called Musical Ear Syndrome, and I wasn’t the only person to experience it.
Now, when MES wakes me up in the middle of the night, I turn off the fan and am able to get back to sleep.  However, turning off the fan allows other noises to disturb me but for some reason, the sound of the refrigerator or furnace does not bother me nearly as much as the phantom music.