Interview: What is Musical Ear Syndrome (MES)?

What is musical ear syndrome?

Musical ear syndrome is when you hear music that isn’t there, basically. It’s common when people have some hearing loss but that’s not how it always is. There are two kinds of musical ear syndrome One kind is where you hear it out of thin air, and the other kind is when you hear it only when there’s other sound, usually out of white noise. And it’s not always music. You could also hear mumbling voices and other sounds.

You mean the white noise becomes music?

Not exactly. You hear the music inside the white noise. You still hear the white noise as well.

Now when you say you hear music–I mean I hear music all the time, because songs are always stuck in my head. How is that different than what you’re saying?

I actually hear the music. It’s not in my head. I hear it as though it’s external, just the same as I hear everything else.

Do you hear music you recognize?

Not that I can tell. And sometimes it’s nice music. What I really don’t like is when it’s heavy metal. That’s just not my kind of music. It does make me wonder what that says about me and how I’m feeling. [laugh]

What was it like to first discover that this was happening?

At first, I searched for the source of the noise. I hunted around for it. I found that it was coming from my air conditioner. But I ignored it at first. After it happened a few more times, I thought I was losing my mind. Luckily, I see a psychiatrist regularly so I asked him about it. He assured me that it wasn’t psychosis and that it was nothing to worry about. It still concerned me at times, but I’ve gotten used to it. It’s only trouble every once in a while when I’m trying to sleep because I like to sleep with a fan.

Will it ever go away? Is there a cure?

There isn’t a cure. If hearing loss is the cause then hearing aids could help. I don’t think that’s the case for me. I don’t really know and people don’t know a lot about it, but I think it could go away at any time. Sometimes it goes away for weeks at a time, and I think it’s gone then it creeps back in. The more I think about it and talk about it, the more it happens. Sometimes, I’ll be lying in bed trying to sleep and the thought of it will randomly come to mind then immediately it’ll start happening. It’s annoying.

How do you now feel about having it?

I think I’m okay with it. It’s annoying sometimes like I said but it’s mostly nothing. There have been a few times where I’ve been alone in my room on the computer all day and I start to get lonely, and it starts happening and it makes me feel a little less alone, so I guess it’s nice sometimes in a strange way.

If you could be cured of it, would you want to be?

Hmm, that’s a good question. I’m not sure. I hear it’s pretty common but it doesn’t happen to anyone I know, so it kind of makes me feel unique. That’s probably a dumb reason to feel unique, but I don’t know that’s just what I think sometimes.

What would you say to other people who have this?

I would say, don’t freak out about it. You’re not insane. Maybe even try to think of it as something fun or entertaining if you can. But most of all, don’t dwell on it. It’s really not that important or that big of a deal.

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