One lesser-known condition that some people with hearing loss experience is called musical ear syndrome (MES). People who have this condition hear music or singing when there is none.
Though these experiences are referred to as musical hallucinations, MES is not the result of any psychological condition or a sign of dementia. Absent any other symptoms of other conditions, MES is solely related to hearing loss.
Similarities Between MES and Tinnitus
Musical ear syndrome is much closer to tinnitus than any hallucination that occurs due to certain mental illnesses.
Instead of hearing music, people with tinnitus complain of a ringing in the ear. The sound has also been described as a buzzing, hissing, roaring or whooshing noise. Tinnitus can be sporadic or constant for the person experiencing it.
Tinnitus is classified as being either:
Objective: Ringing can be heard by an impartial observer, such as a doctor.
Subjective: Ringing heard only by the patient.
Most tinnitus cases are subjective, making the experience similar to MES.
How Hearing Aids Can Help MES
An 87-year-old woman was convinced that the music she was hearing on and off was coming from next door. Eventually, the music became persistent, and she realized that no one else in her household was able to hear it. She was admitted to a neurology clinic and examined.
The woman was previously diagnosed with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, and tests confirmed she had 75% hearing loss on the right ear and 95% hearing loss on the left ear. Once other causes of hallucinations were ruled out, doctors recommended that she use hearing aids to maximize her hearing capability and add sound to her environment (like background music or white noise). During follow ups the patient reported no additional complaints of MES.
The theory behind why MES occurs is that our brains try to replace the input it was used to receiving from the ears by generating its own sound based on memories like music. Hearing aids help restore the input, making it so the brain no longer needs to create a replacement.
Additional Treatment for MES
- Background noise like music or a white noise machine. (A good excuse for picking up your favorite vinyl LP at Breakaway Records.)
- Anti-anxiety medication or sedatives
- Meditation and mindfulness techniques
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
- Breathing exercises
To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a hearing expert, contact Tejas Hearing Aid Center today.