What is Musical Ear Syndrome & How is it Treated? | Causes & Symptoms of Musical Ear Syndrome

What is Musical Ear Syndrome?

Musical ear syndrome is a condition that leads to musical hallucinations. There is a sensation that someone is singing or music is playing, which is actually not happening.

Musical ear syndrome is not an uncommon condition but is rarely diagnosed.(1)

Musical ear syndrome is believed to stem from hearing loss but the exact mechanism is not known. Sensory deprivation is suspected to be a cause of musical ear syndrome.

The brain is responsible to collect the information from all the senses. In hearing impairment the brain is not prepared to ignore this sense and continues to seek the input. Since the brain gets little or nothing in return it starts filling in blanks from what it already knows. This leads to the production of a variety of sounds. In the case of musical ear syndrome, the brain starts filling in the blanks with music.

The condition can be similar to tinnitus which leads to ringing, buzzing, or hissing sounds and is related to hearing loss. This is why sometimes; musical ear syndrome is also called musical tinnitus.

Musical ear syndrome is seen occurring more in older people with hearing impairment. According to research, 2% of people who lose their hearing experience musical ear syndrome.(5)

Causes Of Musical Ear Syndrome

Certain causes have been identified to cause musical ear syndrome.

Hearing Loss

If there are no hallucinatory or cognitive symptoms and you are hearing music that is likely not present, can be due to hearing loss.

Cochlear Implants

There have been a few cases in which cochlear implantation has triggered musical ear syndrome.(2)

The link between cochlear implants and musical ear syndrome has not been studied well. A study done on 82 patients found that 22 percent developed musical ear syndrome which included 7 before implantation and 11 after implantation.(3)

Medications

There are certain medicines that can lead to hallucinations including auditory hallucinations, which is more of hearing voices and noises.

Medications rarely cause musical ear syndrome but if you feel your medications are causing hallucinations, consult your healthcare provider right away.

Symptoms of Musical Ear Syndrome

People experiencing musical ear syndrome report hearing different types of sounds. The most common ones include:

  • Orchestral symphonies
  • Radio tunes
  • Sound of popular songs

How To Treat Musical Ear Syndrome?

If experiencing musical ear syndrome you should consult a doctor for an appropriate diagnosis to get appropriate treatment.

The treatment for Musical ear syndrome varies from person to person.

Hearing Aids

If there is hearing loss, treating it can improve the symptom of musical ear syndrome.

A hearing aid can be helpful in stopping the brain from filling the blanks.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy

Cognitive behavior therapy would not stop the music but help you get along with it. It trains you to ignore the music.

Research shows cognitive behavior therapy helps people deal with tinnitus.(4)

Medications

If nothing is working to cure the musical ear syndrome, there are certain medications that can help treat it.

  • Haloperidol
  • Atypical neuroleptics
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors
  • Cholinergic and GABAergic agents.

All these medications have side effects and all the potential pros and cons should be discussed with the doctor before starting them.

Lifestyle Changes

Along with the other treatment options, a few lifestyle changes can effectively help in reducing the musical ear syndrome.

Few strategies such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and mindfulness can help you when music is causing problems.

If stress is the cause of musical ear syndrome, it can be reduced with regular exercise, aromatherapy, yoga, and massage therapy. This helps reduce stress and also the syndrome.

You can also discourage your brain from striking the band and making you hear unusual sounds by listening to music or any type of background noise.

Musical ear syndrome is the creation of the brain and not a psychological problem. Treating the cause can help you overcome Musical ear syndrome.