phantom sounds meaning

Why You May Be Hearing Phantom Sounds

Have you ever heard music, singing, or voices coming from sounds?  Over the years we’ve received a handful of emails from users asking us about the “voices” in our sounds.  After reassuring multiple users there were no voices speaking to them through the sounds, we thought we’d share the likely cause with everyone.

Music Ear Syndrome

phantom sounds meaning

Apophenia/Audio Paredolia

phantom sounds meaning

One form of Apophenia is Audio Paredolia, which occurs when the brain scans for patterns in noises and if none can be identified, the brain fills in missing pieces to create one.  For example, your brain will take the sound of an engine and interpret it as music.  Some sounds can induce this reaction more than others.  For instance, the sound of a jet plane, road/wind noise, running water, fans and other motor sounds provoke the brain to compensate and create auditory illusions.  So, if you hear classical music playing on an airplane, it might just be your brain’s overactive imagination.

Now that you understand the phantom noises there is no reason to worry, however we do recommend reporting your experiences with your doctor so they can begin to monitor for hearing loss, tinnitus, etc.  If they are bothersome to you, we suggest taking note of the sounds that trigger the phantom noises so you can try to avoid them in the future.  Download the White Noise app and try out new sounds today.  Share your MES experiences with us on Facebook or Twitter , we’d love your feedback!


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What is tinnitus?

What are the symptoms of tinnitus, what causes tinnitus, what creates the perception of noise in the ears, how is tinnitus diagnosed, what treatments can help tinnitus, what types of tinnitus-related research are scientists conducting, where can i find additional information about tinnitus.

Tinnitus (pronounced tih-NITE-us or TIN-uh-tus) is the perception of sound that does not have an external source, so other people cannot hear it.

Tinnitus is commonly described as a ringing sound, but some people hear other types of sounds, such as roaring or buzzing. Tinnitus is common, with surveys estimating that 10 to 25% of adults have it. Children can also have tinnitus. For children and adults, tinnitus may improve or even go away over time, but in some cases, it worsens with time. When tinnitus lasts for three months or longer, it is considered chronic.

The causes of tinnitus are unclear, but most people who have it have some degree of hearing loss. Tinnitus is only rarely associated with a serious medical problem and is usually not severe enough to interfere with daily life. However, some people find that it affects their mood and their ability to sleep or concentrate. In severe cases, tinnitus can lead to anxiety or depression.

Currently, there is no cure for tinnitus, but there are ways to reduce symptoms. Common approaches include the use of sound therapy devices (including hearing aids), behavioral therapies, and medications.

The symptoms of tinnitus can vary significantly from person to person. You may hear phantom sounds in one ear, in both ears, and in your head. The phantom sound may ring, buzz, roar, whistle, hum, click, hiss, or squeal. The sound may be soft or loud and may be low or high pitched. It may come and go or be present all the time. Sometimes, moving your head, neck, or eyes, or touching certain parts of your body may produce tinnitus symptoms or temporarily change the quality of the perceived sound. This is called somatosensory (pronounced so-ma-toe-SENSE-uh-ree) tinnitus.

Most cases of tinnitus are subjective , meaning that only you can hear the sounds. In rare cases, the sound pulsates rhythmically, often in time to your heartbeat. In these cases, a doctor may be able to hear the sounds with a stethoscope and, if so, it is considered to be objective tinnitus. Often, objective tinnitus has an identifiable cause and is treatable.

While the exact causes of tinnitus are not fully understood, it has been linked to the following:

  • Noise exposure . Many people experience tinnitus after being exposed to loud noise in a workplace setting or at a sporting event or concert. Tinnitus is also the most common service-related disability among veterans because of loud noise they may have experienced from gunfire, machinery, bomb blasts, or other similar sources.
  • Hearing loss. Hearing loss, which can be caused by factors such as aging or exposure to loud noise, is strongly associated with tinnitus. Some people with hearing loss, however, never develop tinnitus.
  • Medications. Tinnitus can be a side effect of taking certain medications, especially if they are taken at high doses. Medications associated with tinnitus include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin), certain antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs, anti-malaria medications, and antidepressants.
  • Earwax or an ear infection. Blockage of the ear canal by earwax or by fluid from an ear infection can trigger tinnitus.
  • Head or neck injuries. A head/neck injury can damage structures of the ear, the nerve that carries sound signals to the brain, or areas of the brain that process sound, causing tinnitus.

Less common tinnitus risk factors include:

  • Ménière’s disease. Tinnitus can be a symptom of Ménière’s disease , an inner ear disorder that can also cause balance problems and hearing loss.
  • Jaw joint problems. The joint that connects the lower jaw to the skull is close to the ear. Jaw clenching or tooth grinding can damage surrounding tissue, causing or worsening tinnitus.
  • Tumor-related disorders. A vestibular schwannoma (acoustic neuroma) is a benign tumor on a nerve that leads from the inner ear to the brain. Acoustic neuromas and other head, neck, and brain tumors can cause tinnitus.
  • Blood vessel problems. High blood pressure, atherosclerosis, or malformations in blood vessels, especially if they are in or close to the ear, can alter blood flow and cause tinnitus.
  • Chronic conditions. Diabetes, migraines, thyroid disorders, anemia, and certain autoimmune disorders such as lupus and multiple sclerosis are among the chronic conditions that have been linked to tinnitus.

While there are many possible causes of tinnitus, some people develop it for no known reason.

One leading theory is that tinnitus can occur when damage to the inner ear changes the signal carried by nerves to the parts of your brain that process sound. A way to think about this is that while tinnitus may seem to occur in your ear, the phantom sounds are instead generated by your brain, in an area called the auditory cortex.

Other evidence shows that abnormal interactions between the auditory cortex and other neural circuits may play a role in tinnitus. The auditory cortex communicates with other parts of the brain, such as the parts that control attention and emotions, and studies have shown that some people with tinnitus have changes in these nonauditory brain regions.

If you have tinnitus, first see your primary care doctor, who will check for earwax or fluid from an ear infection that could be blocking your ear canal. Your doctor will also ask about your medical history to find out if an underlying condition or a medication may be causing your tinnitus.

Next, you may be referred to an otolaryngologist (commonly called an ear, nose, and throat doctor, or an ENT). The ENT will ask you to describe the tinnitus sounds and when they started, and will examine your head, neck, and ears. You might also be referred to an audiologist, who can measure your hearing and evaluate your tinnitus.

The ENT may order imaging tests, especially if your tinnitus pulsates. Imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), or ultrasound can help reveal whether a structural problem or underlying medical condition is causing your tinnitus.

When tinnitus has an underlying physiological cause, such as earwax or jaw joint problems, addressing the cause can eliminate or greatly reduce symptoms. But for many people, symptoms can persist for months or even years. There are several ways to lessen the impact of tinnitus. Below are some of the treatments that your doctor may recommend.

Several types of devices are used in sound therapy. They include the following:

  • Tabletop or smartphone sound generators are typically used as an aid for relaxation or sleep. Placed near your bed, you can program a generator or set a smartphone app to play pleasant sounds such as waves, waterfalls, rain, or the sounds of a summer night. You may also use other sound generators, such as a radio or a household fan. If your tinnitus is mild, this might be all that you need to help you fall asleep.
  • Hearing aids are one of the main treatment options for people with tinnitus who have hearing loss. They amplify external noises, allowing you to better engage with the world, while also making your tinnitus less noticeable.
  • Wearable sound generators are small electronic devices that fit in the ear much like hearing aids and emit soft, pleasant sounds. Because they are portable, these devices can provide continuous relief from tinnitus throughout the day. Smartphone apps may also be used to generate these sounds.
  • Combination devices, which fit into the ear like hearing aids, provide sound amplification and sound generation in one device. These devices are another option for treating tinnitus in people with hearing loss.
  • Education about tinnitus can reduce anxiety by helping you recognize that the condition, in most cases, is unlikely to be linked to a serious medical condition. Through counseling, you can learn coping techniques and strategies to avoid making symptoms worse, such as by limiting your exposure to loud noise.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches you how to identify negative thoughts that cause you distress. Your counselor will train you to change your response to negative thoughts and to focus on positive changes you can make to reduce the impact of tinnitus on your life. Studies have shown that this type of therapy can help improve the well-being of people with the condition.
  • Tinnitus retraining therapy uses counseling and sound therapy to “retrain” the brain, both emotionally and physiologically, so that you no longer notice your tinnitus. The counseling aspect of therapy aims to help you reclassify tinnitus sounds as neutral, while the continuous low-level sound from a device worn in the ear helps you get used to the presence of tinnitus.
  • Medications. There are no medications specifically for treating tinnitus, but your doctor may prescribe antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications to improve your mood or help you sleep. While certain vitamins, herbal extracts, and dietary supplements are commonly advertised as cures for the condition, none of these has been proven to be effective.

Investigators at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and at other research centers across the country, many supported by NIDCD, are working to better understand what causes tinnitus and to develop new treatment strategies. Evidence suggests that tinnitus is caused by changes in neural networks in the brain, so many research efforts are aimed at testing the benefit of magnetic or electrical stimulation of the brain.

Here are some examples of current research topics:

  • Electric stimulation. Cochlear implants have been shown to suppress tinnitus, in addition to restoring functional hearing in those with severe-to-profound hearing loss, but they are not suitable for the majority of tinnitus sufferers who have significant acoustic hearing. Researchers are using non-invasive electric stimulation on parts of the inner ear to suppress tinnitus while not damaging acoustic hearing.
  • Bimodal stimulation. Acoustic stimulation may be combined with other types of electric stimulation on the tongue, head or neck areas, or vagus nerve to provide long-term relief for tinnitus.
  • Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). In this painless, noninvasive procedure, short magnetic pulses are delivered to the brain using a device called an electromagnetic coil. Preliminary trials of rTMS have yielded mixed results, so researchers are now studying the ideal coil placement and frequency of patient visits.
  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS). This procedure is normally used to treat people with certain types of movement disorders or neuropsychiatric conditions. Some people being treated with DBS found that the procedure unexpectedly reduced their tinnitus symptoms. Unlike rTMS, DBS is invasive and involves surgery to implant electrodes deep within the brain. While early results on the use of DBS for tinnitus have been encouraging, more research is needed to determine if the procedure is warranted for treating tinnitus alone.
  • Researchers have identified a drug that reduces tinnitus in mice, and they are working to develop second-generation versions that may one day prove effective in people.
  • Researchers are studying how tinnitus is linked to hyperactivity in central auditory neurons following damage to the cochlea, the structure in the inner ear that senses sound. Scientists are working to determine the cellular mechanisms that cause increased activity, and to identify drugs that may control it and relieve tinnitus symptoms.
  • Genetic risk factors. Tinnitus and hearing impairment affect many older people. Scientists are reviewing a large genetic database of people with tinnitus and age-related hearing loss to identify genetic risk factors for both conditions. Determining genetic associations with age-related hearing impairment and tinnitus may have a broad impact on risk prediction, prevention, screening, and treatment.
  • Personalized treatment. Tinnitus symptoms are diverse, with different people hearing different sounds in different patterns. The results of brain imaging studies in people with tinnitus also vary considerably from person to person. Using data gathered from study participants who are tracking their tinnitus using a smartphone app, along with brain imaging data, scientists are working to characterize the many forms that the condition can take. They aim to describe distinct tinnitus profiles and to identify the most effective treatment approaches for each one.

NIDCD maintains a directory of organizations providing information on the normal and disordered processes of hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech, and language.

For more information, contact us at:

NIDCD Information Clearinghouse 1 Communication Avenue Bethesda, MD 20892-3456 Toll-free voice: (800) 241-1044 Toll-free TTY: (800) 241-1055 Email: [email protected]

Publication No. 10-4896 February 2023

*Note: PDF files require a viewer such as the free  Adobe Reader .

What Do All These Phantom Noises Mean?

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Do you sometimes hear ringing in your ears? Do you notice buzzing, clicking, whistling, or even hissing sounds when nothing in your environment is making those noises? These sounds may be loud or soft, low in pitch or high. You may hear them in one or both ears, and they may come and go or be present all the time.

If so, you may have tinnitus , a condition in which you hear what’s known as “phantom sounds.” Tinnitus is a common problem, affecting more than 11% of Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . It can affect your concentration, sleep, and quality of life.

Here at Sharp Hearing Care Professionals , Dr. Kevin Sharim and his team have extensive experience diagnosing and treating tinnitus. Dr. Sharim would like to share some important information with you about this common hearing-related condition.

Buzz, buzz, buzz

Tinnitus occurs when the tiny hairs in your ears that transmit sound signals don’t function properly. When this happens – typically because these tiny hairs become damaged – you may have the sense that you are hearing phantom noises.

Although tinnitus isn’t the same as hearing loss , it can be a sign that you are starting to experience age-related hearing loss.

Tinnitus can have many different possible causes, including the following:

  • The buildup of fluid in your ears
  • The buildup of pressure on your eardrum or eustachian tube
  • Ear conditions such as Meniere’s disease, which can lead to dizziness
  • Excess earwax in ear canals
  • Exposure to loud sounds, either in a single instance or overtime
  • Hormonal changes in women
  • Infections in your ears or sinuses
  • Medical conditions in your brain
  • Muscle spasms within your inner ear
  • Nerve problems in your ears or brain
  • Problems with your thyroid gland
  • A side-effect of 200 different drugs

Treating tinnitus

To determine the best treatment for your tinnitus, your provider starts by conducting a full evaluation of your hearing and your ear health. Then your provider creates a personalized treatment plan designed to address any issues that may be contributing to your tinnitus.

For example, if tinnitus is caused by a current infection in your ears or sinuses, a prescription antibiotic may clear it up. If your tinnitus is related to hearing loss, your provider may recommend a hearing aid .

In some cases, you may benefit from a tinnitus masker , which is a specialized hearing aid that produces white noise that masks phantom sounds.

Care for your tinnitus

If you’re experiencing tinnitus-type sounds or any other types of hearing-related problems, you can count on our providers to deliver the best possible care. 

To schedule a consultation with Dr. Sharim and our team at Sharp Hearing Care Professionals, contact one of our offices today. Our offices are conveniently located in Oxnard, Santa Barbara, West Hills, and Santa Monica, California.

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Musical Ear Syndrome—The phantom voices, ethereal music & other spooky sounds many hard of hearing people secretly experience

by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.

© 2005 (updated 2016)

Marilyn woke with a start, her heart pounding. It was the middle of the night. “I thought people were calling to me,” she explained. “I became truly frightened when I realized that I was deaf and should not be able to hear voices.” “My wife hears music that is not there,” Harry writes. “The first song she heard was  Silent Night  sung by a very good choir of mostly men. It came in quite loud. A day later it was the  Vienna Waltz  over and over again so clear it was like being at a musical production.” “I would often lie half awake in the quietness of the early morning and hear a phantom radio,” Dick recalls. “A guy would be talking like they did in the 50s. Kind of a monotone voice and all the advertisements like they did back then. It always sounded so real.” “Late at night when I don’t have my hearing aids on,” Carolyn relates, “I am absolutely sure I hear trucks and bulldozers working right outside our bedroom windows. We are the only ones living on our little country lane. There’s no traffic of any kind outside my bedroom windows. My husband swears there are no noises at all.” “Years ago,” Sherry remembers, “when my dad would take me flying in his little two-seater wind-knocker airplane, I used to hear strange music. The music sounded like the full Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Since I was quite young, I thought it was angels singing.” Julie’s father-in-law mainly hears loud music when alone in his apartment, oftentimes in the middle of the night. Julie explains, “He has taken to knocking on the downstairs landlady’s door at 3 A.M. telling her to turn the music down. I have been with him a few times when he heard the music, but I couldn’t hear a thing.” “I was afraid I was going nuts when I thought I was hearing things in my head after my CI surgery,” Heather remembers. “On the morning after the surgery, I was hearing what sounded like music from a radio. I heard that every day from my surgery until I was hooked up. It almost drove me nuts. Yet, I never said one word to anyone about it because I didn’t want them to think I was crazy.” Janet explained, “My mother-in-law confided in me about hearing music loud and clear at various times of the day, but frequently when she goes to bed. Two doctors now have basically ridiculed her and said they’d never heard of such a thing. My mother-in-law is at the end of her rope. She is even accusing her husband of trying to drive her crazy by playing this music. As you can imagine, this is very difficult on their marriage.”

What do these people have in common? They all hear strange phantom sounds that no one else hears. They are also hard of hearing. Nor are they alone. Thousands of other hard of hearing people “hear” similar phantom sounds, yet they never tell a soul because they are afraid of the dreaded “H” word—hallucinations.

They are terrified someone will discover their “shameful” secret—that they experience auditory hallucinations.

The very word conjures up visions of phantom voices, padded cells and people in white coats talking in hushed tones. This is because almost everyone associates “hearing voices” with “going crazy” and mental illness such as schizophrenia. It’s time to dispel such myths.

What Exactly Are Hallucinations?

According to Stedman’s MedicalDictionary , hallucinations are “the apparent, often strong,subjective perception of an object or event when no such stimulus or situation is present.” More simply put,hallucinations are where your brain perceives that something is happening even though your five senses have not received any direct stimulus.

Hallucinations may be visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), olfactory (smelling), gustatory (tasting) or tactile (feeling). Therefore, hallucinations are simply seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting or feeling sights, sounds, odors, tastes, or sensations that no one else around you perceives.

Although hallucinations may occur with any of the five senses, auditory hallucinations are by far the most common kind of hallucination. A person is hearing auditory hallucinations when he or she hear noises, music, sounds or voices that no one else hears because these phantom sounds are generated in the person’s brain, not externally.

Two Kinds of Auditory Hallucinations

Not many people know this, but there are actually two classes of auditory hallucinations—psychiatric auditory hallucinations, and non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations. People with mental illnesses often experience the former,while hard of hearing people often experience the latter.

Here is an example of a psychiatric auditory hallucination. Elyssa explained, “Lately I’ve been hearing voices. I don’t know where they come from but they are loud and clear. Last week, for example, I was sitting in class when this voice told me that the boy sitting behind me was planning to attack me after school. I jumped out of my seat and began to scream obscenities at him. He denied everything, of course, so I punched him in the face and broke his nose.”

As you can readily see, this example is vastly different from the auditory hallucination stories mentioned at the beginning of this article—the kind many hard of hearing people typically experience. These non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations have nothing whatsoever to do with mental illness, but are a symptom of something not working quite right in the auditory circuits in our brains.

If you are hearing phantom sounds, how can you tell which of hallucinations you are experiencing—whether psychiatric or non-psychiatric? Although I am not a psychiatrist, here are two “rules of thumb”.

  • People who experience psychiatric auditory hallucinations generally hear voices , as opposed to music or other sounds. People who experience non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations mostly hear  music  or singing, rather than just plain voices.
  • The voices that people who experience psychiatric auditory hallucinations hear are generally clear and distinct. These voices almost always talk  to  or  about  the person, and may engage the person in conversation. Consequently, the content is of a  meaningful personal nature.

In contrast, people who experience non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations often hear voices that sound vaguely like a radio broadcast or TV program playing in another room. For example, Robert explained, “I get Red Barber calling the game. I can’t distinguish the words—but I’m sure that’s who is talking.” Catherine described her auditory hallucinations as “what sounded like the voice of a radio announcer on a badly tuned radio station”.

These phantom sounds do not contain any information of a meaningful personal nature. These voices neither talk to the person, or about them, nor do they engage them in conversation.

Characteristics of Auditory Hallucinations

Non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations (hereinafter referred to simply as “auditory hallucinations”) comprise a wide range of sounds, ranging from simple to complex.  Simple  sounds are single, unmodulated sounds such as the various tinnitus sounds (ringing, roaring, buzzing, hissing, rumbling, etc.) millions of people hear. In fact, tinnitus is the most common kind of auditory hallucination.

In contrast,  complex  sounds include multiple, modulated sounds such as tunes, singing, music and voices. These are the kinds of sounds that people have traditionally considered auditory hallucinations. Many people have mistakenly called these sounds “musical tinnitus.”

Depending on their clarity, phantom sounds may be either “unformed” or “formed.”  Unformed  auditory hallucinations consist of hearing distorted music, sounds, or voices. These sounds are vague, “fuzzy” and indistinct. For example, Jane described her unformed auditory hallucinations as “like the wind blowing, but with a musical quality, as if someone off in the distance was singing without words.” Rachel explains, “The words are never distinct—it’s like they are several rooms away.” Sarah relates, “I sometimes hear phantom “radio broadcasts” that I can’t quite make out.”

In contrast,  formed  auditory hallucinations are where speech, music or singing is so clear and recognizable that people hearing it can identify the various voices and musical instruments. For example, James explains, “For the past 3 to 4 months I have had the most calming and repetitive choruses and wind ensembles, usually led by a bass sax and a baritone playing and singing in a low octave, the older Christian hymns and a few oldies from the forties such as,  Near the Cross ,  Amazing Grace ,  His Eye Is on the Sparrow  and  The Star Spangled Banner .”

Claudia, who has normal hearing, describing her auditory hallucinations, says, “I hear passages of what sound like Strauss waltzes, Russian symphonies, Italian operas—distinctively enough to identify various instruments, male or female choruses, and the occasional soloist.”

Incidentally, many people find their auditory hallucinations begin with clearly-formed complete sentences or songs. Later, the repetition of lengthy passages of music may degenerate into short snatches of repetitive phrases or rhythmic patterns, or even into unformed auditory hallucinations that are more like the common forms of tinnitus. Tyler’s father’s auditory hallucinations followed this pattern. He explained, “My dad’s musical hallucinations started out as recognizable songs ( Battle Hymn of the Republic for 2 weeks, then started changing to a variety of other songs, The Music Man , Ride of the Valkyries , etc.) then turned into unrecognizable orchestral or vocal-like sounds”.

The Need for a New Name—The Fear Factor

Unfortunately, the general public immediately associates all auditory hallucinations with mental illness. For example, if I say I hear non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations, typically you will zero in on the two words “psychiatric” and “hallucinations”—and immediately think I am crazy. As a result, few people have the courage to admit they are hearing non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations for this very reason. For example, Cheryl explained, “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”.

Sharing with family members often elicits a similar response. Anna declared, “All my family believe I am nuts because I told them I hear music every waking moment”.

Because of this fear factor, many people describe their auditory hallucinations in terms such as “musical tinnitus” to avoid using the word “hallucinations”. You see, we don’t typically think people with tinnitus as hallucinating or being nuts, do we?

Obviously, there is a real need for a new term to describe non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations—a name that has no negative connotations associated with it whatsoever, and one that does not include either the words “psychiatric” or “hallucinations”.

Since the vast majority of people who experience auditory hallucinations hear some sort of phantom music or singing, I named this condition Musical Ear Syndrome . Not only does it not have any negative connotations, it almost sounds like it might be something good to have—like having an ear for music or having perfect pitch.

For example, when I say, “I’ve got Musical Ear Syndrome,” the first thing that comes to your mind is not that I’m crazy. You see, there is no stigma attached to the term to start with. You are left feeling neutral, or even slightly positive, towards this term, or you query with an open mind, “Music Ear Syndrome—what’s that?”

Since I coined the term Musical Ear Syndrome or MES for short back in 2004, I have found that people are far more willing to openly talk about the phantom sounds they “hear”. In fact, the last time I did a search on Google for the phrase “Musical Ear Syndrome” (in quotes) I came up with more than 11,700 websites that now use this term!

Musical Ear Syndrome is Not New

Musical Ear Syndrome has been around for a long time. Only the name is new—not the phantom experiences themselves. For example, composer Robert Schumann heard auditory hallucinations towards the end of his life. At night, he heard musical notes and believed that he heard an angelic choir singing to him. He also heard the music of Beethoven and Schubert. He jotted down the music in February, 1854 and called it the Theme (WoO, 1854) . He said he was taking dictation from Schubert’s ghost.

Definition of Musical Ear Syndrome

I define Musical Ear Syndrome as hearing non-tinnitus phantom sounds (that is, auditory hallucinations) of a non-psychiatric nature, often musical, but also including voices and other strange sounds.

Tinnitus vs. Musical Ear Syndrome Sounds

Once we throw out psychiatric auditory hallucinations, we are still left with two basic kinds of phantoms sounds—tinnitus and Musical Ear Syndrome sounds. Here’s how to tell them apart.

Tinnitus sounds are single , simple (unmodulated) sounds such as ringing, buzzing, hissing, roaring, clicking, humming, rushing, whooshing droning and kindred sounds. In contrast, Musical Ear Syndrome sounds include multiple , complex (modulated) sounds such as singing, music and voices.

The Most Common Musical Ear Syndrome Sounds

Did you ever wonder what are the most common kinds of MES songs people hear? The truth is that hymns, Christmas carols and patriotic music comprise just over half of all the MES sounds people hear (52% combined).

One lady related, “My 66 year old mom lost almost all her hearing two months ago. The last three days [this was written on December 28th] she keeps hearing Silent Night and Oh, Come All Ye Faithful over and over again. It gets so loud that she can’t sleep. She has tried to make it go away but can’t. She says that it is just beautiful singing with a full orchestra to boot, but would really like some sleep”.

As a matter of interest, quite often MES sounds have a seasonal quality—thus people “hear” Christmas carols during the winter season and The Star Spangled Banner around the 4th of July. Incidentally, while Americans often hear The Star Spangled Banner , Canadians typically hear God Save the Queen or Oh Canada , and Australians often hear Waltzing Matilda !

How Common Is Musical Ear Syndrome?

Because so few people admit to hearing phantom sounds, researchers, up to now, have considered Musical Ear Syndrome (under whatever name they call it) very rare. But that is just not true. Musical Ear Syndrome is much more common than anyone seems to realize, and affects significant numbers of hard of hearing people.

Since few people are willing to admit to hearing these phantom sounds, it is difficult to obtain accurate figures. I estimate that well in excess of 10% of hard of hearing people experience these phantom sounds at one time or another.

For example, when I speak to groups of hard of hearing people on this subject, I often ask how many of them have heard such phantom sounds. Since they feel “safe” with me, invariably 10% to 30% of the people present are brave enough to put up their hands. And that is just those willing to publicly admit they have heard such phantom sounds. Others won’t even admit that much.

To date, I have collected the stories from more than 1,500 people regarding their MES experiences. This alone tells you how common MES really is.

Causes of Musical Ear Syndrome

There are a number of things that are thought to cause MES. The primary contender is lack of adequate auditory stimulation. The theory is that when your world becomes too quiet, your brain manufactures its own sounds. This is why MES is so common among elderly, hard of hearing people. First, they often have significant hearing losses. Second, they typically live in quiet environments. Third, they generally live alone after the death of a spouse.

In addition, because of their hearing losses, hard of hearing people tend to withdraw from social situations and thus do not have much social interaction. This just further compounds their world of silence. At the same time, hard of hearing people may feel depressed over their hearing losses and anxious about what is happening to them. This just exacerbates their phantom sounds.

Another cause of auditory hallucinations is drugs and medications. Elderly people tend to take more and more medications as they age. Unfortunately, numerous drugs can cause auditory hallucinations.

In rare cases, brain abnormalities (tumors, infections) can cause auditory hallucinations. Have a neurologist check you out-especially if you do not fit the common profile of being elderly, hard of hearing and living in a quiet environment.

Some people even find that their MES and Meniere’s disease go hand in hand.

Some Characteristics of People with Musical Ear Syndrome

Not everyone hears phantom sounds. Following are some of the characteristics common to many of the people who do experience Musical Ear Syndrome.

1. Often the Person Is Older. About two-thirds of the people with MES are older than 50. About one-third are older than 70. Only about one-third of the people experiencing MES are younger than 50.

2. Generally the Person Has Some Degree of Hearing Loss. Since MES is apparently often caused by lack of auditory stimulation, it stands to reason that many people with MES have some degree of hearing loss. Surprisingly, about a third of the people with MES report normal hearing. Just over half of the people experiencing MES, report either mild or moderate hearing losses. Interestingly enough, people with more severe hearing losses don’t appear to have MES more frequently than their numbers warrant.

3. More Commonly Reported in Women than in Men. For some reason, typically three times as many women as men report hearing MES sounds. This does not necessarily mean that more women than men experience Musical Ear Syndrome (although it is quite likely that they do). It may just mean that more women than men are willing to speak up and seek help.

4. Commonly the Person is Anxious/Worried, Stressed or Depressed. Notice how anxiety, worry and stress play an important role in the occurrence of Musical Ear Syndrome. It seems that often people going through anxious experiences and stressful situations such as the death of a spouse or some sickness or problems in their family experience MES much more commonly than people whose lives are moving along smoothly.The same is true for depression. One out of five people experiencing MES admits to being depressed when their MES started.

5. More Often than Not, the Person Also Has Tinnitus. Before their Musical Ear Syndrome appeared, most people had pre-existing tinnitus. This is particularly true of those that are hard of hearing. It is probably not true for those whose MES is caused by background sounds. Such people typically have normal, or near-normal, hearing.

6. Often the MES Sounds Seem to Come from a Certain Direction. When the phantom sounds you hear appear to have directionality—that is, they appear to come from a definite direction, thus acting like real sounds—it is most difficult to believe that those sounds are truly phantom. More than one third of the people experiencing MES report that their MES sounds have directionality.

7. Generally Become Aware Their Sounds Are Phantom. Fortunately, most people who experience MES, as time passes, typically figure out that these sounds are not real. For example, one elderly lady who “knew” she was hearing a radio station realized that radio stations don’t play the same song over and over and over again endlessly. So, if the music she is hearing repeats endlessly, she knows it’s all in her head.

A man who heard phantom sounds while in bed had a different way of determining whether what he was hearing was real or phantom. He simply put the pillow over his ears. If he could still hear the sound just as loud, he knew it was in his head. However, if the pillow cut out the sound, he knew it was real. That worked for him.

Unfortunately, about one in five or one in six of the people experiencing MES cannot tell that the sounds they are hearing are truly phantom. These people are typically well up in their 80s. Even when caregivers explain to them that these sounds are not real, they refuse to believe it, and often become angry at the person who’s trying to tell them otherwise. In my experience, it is almost impossible to help such people. The best I can do is to explain clearly to their children or caregivers what is happening so that they can understand what their parent is going through.

8. May Appear to Act Irrationally. The good news is that most people soon come to realize the MES sounds they are hearing are phantom and thus don’t respond to them as though they are real. However, numbers of people, especially those up in their 80s and 90s, don’t seem to be able to separate their phantom sounds from real sounds. As a result, they continue to act as though what they are hearing is real. This gives rise to some bizarre, and often what appears to be irrational behavior. Don’t let that throw you. Although people with MES may have what appears to be bizarre behavior, if you put yourself in their shoes, you’ll quickly realize that they are behaving sanely and rationally based on what their senses are telling them is true, even though the sounds they are “hearing” are indeed phantom.

Unfortunately, because of their apparently irrational behavior, too often, doctors and caregivers (which includes family members) have quickly written such people off as being “nuts” and treat them as such, when in reality, they are simply being fooled by their MES. Here are some examples.

An 82 year old hard of hearing widow began hearing noises on the second floor of her house. To her it sounded like a homeless person was living there. She heard him come into the house, usually at night, walk up the stairs and move things around upstairs. She never saw him, or spoke to him.

A few times she even summoned the courage to climb the stairs and see what was going on. She never found anything out of place, and there was never any signs of the stranger.

To try to stop this, she changed the locks on her house, not just once, but twice. Also, on two occasions, she called the police. The police thoroughly searched the house and grounds without finding any evidence of an intruder. You see, in this case she heard certain sounds and made a rational decision based on their being real. These sounds had moving directionality—walking up the stairs, moving around upstairs, etc. Thus she acted prudently (as far as she was concerned) in changing the locks and calling the police, but to outsiders, her actions seemed a bit nuts.

Here’s another example. A concerned neighbor explained, “We have a neighbor in our condo who has been fairly deaf for many years. He is about 80 now. In recent years, he is hearing music, which he attributes to neighbors next door, who he feels are “against him” and play music all night. No one else in the condo has ever heard such music. It is quite quiet here at night. He has enlisted the help of paralegals and others, demanding that the “music” stop. Our condo board is beside itself, as his threats become more aggressive. He is making everyone’s life miserable.”

This man also hears “real” music and “knows” exactly where it is coming from—that neighbor next door. So he does the rational thing and tries to get the Condo board to stop it, and when they don’t, he enlists the help of a paralegal. To everyone else, he is acting irrational, but, because this music is so real, has directionality, and the people won’t stop being inconsiderate, he is taking legal action.

In these above stories you now can see that what appears at first glance to be irrational thinking and behavior is rooted in the firm belief that these phantom sounds are real. Unless, or until, a person realizes that their brains are playing tricks on them, they will continue on in their apparently bizarre behavior.

And while we are on this subject, you’ve all heard stories of people who supposedly hear radio stations through their dental fillings, haven’t you? These stories have been around for a long time now. I remember my dad telling me such stories more than 50 years ago.

In spite of the many reports of radio broadcasts being received through dental fillings, I’m not aware of a single proven case. I now know that what people thought were their fillings picking up radio stations is in reality Musical Ear Syndrome. Tooth fillings don’t receive radio signals. People came up with this explanation in their desperate search for a rational explanation for the strange phantom radio-like sounds they were “hearing”—so they wouldn’t have to admit they were crazy.

Three Reasons Why MES Sounds Make You Believe They Are Real

Here are three reasons why Musical Ear Syndrome can completely trick people into believing that the phantom sounds they hear are real.

1. The sounds can seem absolutely real. As far as you are concerned, you are hearing them with your ears—so no way could they be phantom sounds. Therefore, you treat them as real sounds until, hopefully, you realize your brain is fooling you (yet again).

2. Often the sounds have directionality. They are not just “in your head”, but you “know” they are coming from a certain location—the house next door, the apartment below you (or above you), etc. Therefore, you have no reason to believe they are not real sounds.

3. These sounds are sometimes accompanied by tactile sensations. Some people actually feel the appropriate tactile sensation that would accompany the real sound. For example, you might also “feel” the floor vibrating from all the racket downstairs. Here are a couple of stories of a person not only hearing sounds, but also feeling them too.

Carolyn explained, “Late at night when I don’t have my hearing aids on, I am absolutely sure that there are trucks and bulldozers working just outside my bedroom window late at night when it is quiet. We are the only ones living on our little country lane. There’s no traffic of any kind outside my bedroom windows. I feel the vibrations too. I thought I was going off the deep end.”

Since our minds associate certain sensations with certain sounds, it automatically adds them in—thus heightening the illusion that there is something real going on when nothing is happening. In Carolyn’s case, you can’t have a bulldozer working right outside your house without it rumbling and shaking the ground as it works—so she both “hears” it and “feels” the house shaking.

Sometimes our minds make up totally illogical explanations to try to fit what we hear and feel into our reality.

Angela related, “My 90 year old father-in-law has been hard of hearing for some time, and it is getting progressively worse. The geriatric psychiatrist tested him and found no dementia. He mainly hears loud music when alone in his apartment, oftentimes in the middle of the night. He thinks the landlady knows exactly when he lays down to sleep, and that is when she turns the music all the way up.

Unfortunately, he has taken to knocking on the downstairs landlady’s door (at 3 A.M.) telling her to turn the music down. We have been with him a few times when he heard the music—none of us heard anything. Now get this, he also believes she has a vibrating device or machine that makes his floor vibrate.”

Feeling the floor vibrate when you hear phantom sounds coming from below you is not as strange as you might think. Several people have told me they experience vibrations along with their MES. When two of your five senses begin telling you the same thing, it’s very difficult to believe these sensations are all phantom.

Six Common Triggers of Musical Ear Syndrome

Exactly what causes MES is still a mystery, but there are a number of things that seem to trigger MES.

1. Anxiety/Stress/Worry. People that are anxious or stressed are much more likely to experience MES than those who are calm and laid-back.

2. Depression. As is the case with tinnitus, Musical Ear Syndrome is more common in people with depression. Treating their depression can cause the phantom sounds to fade away on their own.

3. Constant Background Noise. Sometimes, constant background noise blends in and begins to take on a musical quality. This can happen whether you have a hearing loss or not. It is the most common cause of MES in people with normal hearing.

It goes by the fancy name of Audio Pareidolia. You can read about this fascinating condition in my comprehensive article “ Apophenia, Audio Pareidolia and Musical Ear Syndrome “.

Here are some examples.

Bethany explained, “My mom is hard of hearing. Recently on a trip to Arizona with my dad she commented to dad when they arrived at their hotel that she really enjoyed the music on the plane. Dad said there was no music on the plane. On the return trip, mom started hearing the music again and told dad to listen. He said, nope, no music. But mom continued to enjoy it until the plane landed.”

I’ve determined that one common theme with hearing people is that many times their MES sounds are triggered by a fan in the house. For example, a man with normal hearing explained, “I hear music only when a noise is going on in my environment. For example, if I’m hearing the air conditioner outside the window or the furnace fan, I hear an orchestra, or sometimes just a song. When the triggering noise turns off, the music stops.”

A hearing woman explained, “I only hear MES sounds when the furnace fan is running and I am in bed and the house is quiet. They go when the furnace or air conditioning fan quits running”.

4. Brain Abnormalities. Auditory hallucinations can result from seizures such as temporal lobe epilepsy. Musical hallucinations may be triggered by unruptured intracranial aneurysms, or may be associated with dorsal pontine lesions. They may also be triggered by pockets of infection in your brain such as is caused by Lyme disease.

5. Drugs. Most people know that some “recreational” drugs such as Alcohol, Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), Marijuana (Pot), Methamphetamines (Meth) and other recreational drugs can cause auditory hallucinations, but it never crosses the minds of most people that some of the prescription drugs they are taking can also cause such phantom sounds. Furthermore, elderly people tend to take more and more medications as they age. Unfortunately, numerous drugs can cause auditory hallucinations.

Gail explained, “My father has a profound hearing loss that may be getting worse. He was recently placed on Terazosin. Since starting the medication he hears “music” even when his hearing aids are out.”

Note: Terazosin (and more than 360 other drugs and substances that can cause hallucinations) are listed in Appendix 2 in the back of my book Phantom Voices, Ethereal Music & Other Spooky Sounds .

6. Hearing Loss. Hearing loss is a very commonly associated with Musical Ear Syndrome. This is because with increasing hearing loss, the brain no longer hears what it used to hear, and it sometimes decides to make up for this lack with music of its own. Doctors call this sensory deprivation.

Nine Steps to Work Through When Helping People with Musical Ear Syndrome

Now comes the important part—what can you do about your Musical Ear Syndrome?Very briefly, here are a number of things you can do to help yourself manage your auditory hallucinations so they have less of an impact on your life.

1. Seek Competent Medical Attention to Rule Out Brain Disorders & Other Medical Conditions. There is a very small chance that you may have a brain tumor or other brain abnormality that is causing your Musical Ear Syndrome. It is good to be checked out by a neurologist to be sure there are no physical brain problems. You may decide to have MRIs, CT scans or EEGs. Knowing there is nothing physically wrong “upstairs” will give you a large sense of relief.

2. Learn About Musical Ear Syndrome. Learning all you can about what you are dealing with takes much of the anxiety away. Thus, you are better able to cope with your MES. Furthermore, once you know what MES is, you often will feel an enormous sense of relief. With that sense of relief, often a surprising thing happens. Your Musical Ear Syndrome goes away on its own, or tends to fade more into the background. Many times this is all it takes.

3. Convince Your Brain of the Falseness of Your Musical Ear Syndrome Sounds. When you know your brain is playing tricks on you, do whatever it takes to convince your brain—and you can put an end to some of these phantom sounds. Remember the man that heard music at night—he put the pillow over his ears. If the sound volume dropped, he knew it was real music. If it stayed at the same volume, he knew it was all in his head.

4. Reduce Your Anxiety Level. Very often, just learning about Musical Ear Syndrome is enough to reduce your anxiety over the strange sounds you are hearing. That is why it is so important to have good information available like this article. If you are anxious about other things, get your anxiety under control and your MES may also fade away. The same is true for depression.

5. Rule Out Drugs. If your MES began soon after you began taking a new drug or after you changed the dose on an existing drug, that may be the cause. Changing to a different drug or reducing the dose to its original level may let your MES fade away.

6. Enrich Your Environment with Real Sounds. Musical Ear Syndrome thrives when your brain doesn’t get adequate auditory stimulation. This often happens if you have a hearing loss and consequently don’t hear the common everyday environmental sounds that keep your auditory neurons happy.

Since hearing loss and aging often go hand in hand, this is why MES is so common among elderly, hard of hearing people. In addition, often elderly people live in quiet environments, and may live alone after the death of a spouse, thus exacerbating the lack of auditory stimulation.

Therefore, if you have Musical Ear Syndrome, surround yourself with real sounds. Give your brain real sounds to listen to all the time. If you are hard of hearing, wear your hearing aids so you can hear something—then your brain can focus on those real sounds and quit producing its own phantom sounds.

7. Become Socially Active. Because of their hearing losses, hard of hearing people tend to withdraw from social situations and thus do not have much social interaction. This just further compounds their world of silence.

Becoming socially active does a number of things. First, it goes a long ways towards keeping your mind from focusing on your phantom music. Second, your brain now has scintillating conversations to focus on. Third, increased socialization helps lift the depression and sense of isolation you may be feeling that so often makes your Musical Ear Syndrome worse.

8. Have Your Upper Neck Checked Out by an Upper Cervical Spine Chiropractor. This is especially important if you have been diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease, if you have some of the Meniere’s symptoms, or if the muscles in your face, neck and shoulders are “tight”. Your MES could be the result of nerves “pinched” in your upper neck. For more complete information on this, read my article, “ Atlas Adjustments Alleviate Meniere’s Disease “.

9. Discover What Works for You. Note anything you do that makes your phantom music fade away, or at least not be so noticeable and intrusive. One man told how, when his MES made it hard to go to sleep, he practiced breathing deeply and rhythmically and focused his mind on the sound of his breathing as he lay in bed. He explained that for him, “With a bit of practice my brain seems to place less emphasis on the music which becomes more in the background and it becomes easier for me to fall asleep.” You may find other little tricks that work for you.

There you have it. This has been a brief overview of Musical Ear Syndrome, several causes and a number of ways to help overcome it. However, if you are hard of hearing and have Musical Ear Syndrome, look on the bright side. Hearing phantom music isn’t always all bad. As Sheila says, “I shall miss it if it ever fades away.” I mean, where else can you hear beautiful music without wearing hearing aids, assistive devices, iPods, headphones or other paraphernalia?

(An abbreviated version of this article titled Musical Ear Syndrome was published in the Winter 2004 edition of Hearing Health magazine, pp. 16-19.)

If you desire to know more about Musical Ear Syndrome, get your copy of Phantom Voices, Ethereal Music& Other Spooky Sounds  now. In it, Dr. Neil relates the fascinating accounts of hundreds of people who have Musical Ear syndrome. You will discover what causes these auditory hallucinations, and more importantly, what you can do to reduce or eliminate them. An added bonus—you also get a list of the 368 drugs and other substances known to cause such hallucinations.

To join the Musical Ear Syndrome (MES) support group, click on Subscribe to MES Support Group and then press “Send” to send a blank email to Yahoo Groups. Reply to the confirmation email you’ll receive to activate your subscription. You can unsubscribe at any time.)

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October 6, 2015 at 7:13 PM

Thank you for making this information available

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January 6, 2017 at 9:40 AM

It occurs when I move my head- I do have tinnitus as well..I thought it was due to depression so I have been on Citalopram for years- I had a back -muscle issue that aggravated it and I had no clue how to describe or diagnose- I don’t know where to begin.

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March 22, 2017 at 12:22 AM

Five years ago it began; Christmas music -beutiful music. Tan then original compositions as good as nay I’ve ever heard -but, found our did not exist in catalogued, music libraries. Next, Blue Danube and The Empor’s Waltz, Wolverton’s Mountain (first song I ever heard -when a child- on a juke-box). And, last voices telling me , a confirmed atheist, to ‘believe in God, Christ! Well already I had learn music I did not hate but did not liek. I learned that I could end the song and, when the well deserved and earned rambuctios applause and clapping died down ‘choose another selection by simply thinking o it. As for the ‘spiritual ‘ advice, well, i IMMEDIATELY and simply change the subject. With the voices I can actualy participate and -if disturbed either message or voice, I will just think aout o topic more pleasnt. FRANKLY, I, ONE, would miss it ifit was taken from me; I most assuredly enjoy haveing such talented artist working for free and, last but not least DO-NOT -WANT to alter the occrrence in anyway. In fact, I woulde love to sit face to face with anyone researching this incredible phenomena. As I said, I am an atheist BUT this has certainly caused me to question the likely hood of parallel universe.

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December 12, 2018 at 9:51 PM

I tend to agree with you Jefferson. I feel that it comes from somewhere else….like another universe.

This is very interesting to me. I have wanted to try and record mine. I wish I could hear what you have.

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December 13, 2018 at 9:50 AM

All trying to record your phantom sounds will prove is that they are indeed phantom–because they are generated inside your head so cannot be picked up on a sound recorder.

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December 13, 2018 at 5:38 PM

I have always heard the music, rifts of guitars, bass, sometimes lyrics. I so wished I could write these notes down or play them. They seem fresh. I had always called them angels singing. I am 58 years old now.

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June 7, 2017 at 4:16 PM

I am 74. Fourteen years ago I suddenly lost some of my hearing in the left ear. I had been at the Range taking shooting lessons. When I removed the ear plugs my left ear sounded like they were still there. My ENT told me my interpreter was gone. What is an interpreter? I can’t find it any where. I had a blockage in my sinuses. My doctor sent me to Charottesville VA University for a camera test to see what it was. They all agreed that removing it would not improve anything. When I moved back to Georgia my ENT removed it and my hearing opened up. I could hear better and I had less sinus infections. I am on my second set of hearing aids. They last about 3 years. Is there anything that can be done to improve my hearing? I can hear well but I can’t understand what some people are saying especially if they are talking very fast. I can understand most men that women.

June 10, 2017 at 6:41 AM

If, when you removed your earplugs and it sounded like you still had them on, that indicated that you had a temporary hearing loss at that point. In other words, your earplugs were not doing the job and allowed the loud shots to damage your ears.

I don’t know what your doctor meant by interpreter either. I think you heard him wrong.

Your hearing is probably permanent, meaning that not much can be done to help you apart from wearing hearing aids. The reason you can’t understand people talking as well as she used to is because you have lost some of your high-frequency hearing. This is a typical consequence of that. It is also the reason that you can understand men better than women because men’s voices are pitched lower than women’s so you can hear them better.

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May 2, 2018 at 10:59 AM

I am very thankful I found this article because I have been hearing commercials when I am home alone. But I am not old. In fact, I am still in my early teens and my hearing is fine. Can you help me?

May 4, 2018 at 10:16 AM

If you are hearing what sounds like commercials when it is quiet you may be experiencing Musical Ear Syndrome OR you may be experiencing Audio Pareidolia.

Since you are young and have normal hearing, I suspect you are experiencing Audio Pareidolia. When you hear these sounds next time, listen carefully and see whether there is any motor or fan running (common ones are fans, furnaces, air conditioners) when you hear these sounds. Then note if the “commercials” go away when the fan turns off. If so, you know you are experiencing audio pareidolia. If you haven’t already done so, read my article on this subject at . You may be able to stop these sounds by turning off the fan or moving away from it so you don’t hear it as well (or at all). You could also turn on the radio, TV etc and “drown out” the fan noise and thus stop your audio pareidolia.

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July 25, 2023 at 10:38 AM

Hi Dr. Neil,

This site has given me so much comfort and has helped me in my situation. I took Zoloft for 4 years and back in March I experienced an intense episode of MES that made me come off the medication. I have never had this before, so it scared me the first time it happened. I definitely developed tinnitus while I was on zoloft, and for sure have some sort of hearing damage from going to lots of extremely loud concerts at a younger age without ear protection. (I’m 30 now.) I’ve still been dealing with MES, post coming off the medication. Not as intensely, but still a problem. Do you think it’s possible that my brain is still adjusting to not having the meds in my system that makes me more likely to experience these episodes? I know for a fact my seretonin is a mess right now. I’m 4 months off the meds so far. I’m seeing an audiologist this week, but wonder if this is just how my brain is going to be from now on. I was on zoloft for a panic disorder. I appreciate your advice.

July 26, 2023 at 3:22 PM

Hundreds upon hundreds of people have reported getting MES (or auditory hallucinations) after taking Sertraline (Zoloft), so you are certainly not alone in this. And tinnitus is about twice as common as the MES from this drug. Numbers of people also develop hearing loss from taking Sertraline.

Now that you know what you are experiencing, and have gotten of the Sertraline, it may be that you will calm down and thus find your MES fades away more and more as time goes by. However, it may also be a product of your hearing loss and may tend to stick around due to the hearing loss. For some people wearing hearing aids helps control it during waking hours while they are wearing their hearing aids if it is brought on by a lack of auditory stimulation due to your hearing loss.

Having background sounds on can also do the same thing.

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August 23, 2019 at 6:28 AM

Doc, I can’t sleep though.I know it’s not real , but it is freaking continuous same damn trumpet and 3 words geez. I need the noise to stop.I can’t sleep I try to act like it’s not there, but it’s there and annoying

August 23, 2019 at 11:33 AM

Have you tried playing music at night or environmental CDs of water running arraignment or night life in the forest or whatever turns your crank to lessen the contrast between your phantom sounds and total silence. These sounds don’t have to be loud, just loud enough for you to hear them. For some people, all they need is a fan running. This makes it easier for many to get to sleep and stay asleep in spite of the racket in their head.

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October 7, 2015 at 8:39 AM

I have a totally anecdotal non-scientific explanation that science hasn’t caught up with. The kinds of music I experience, and other people describe, and the kinds of “radio dialogue” that sits at the edge of our perception are akin to what one might hear these days on AM radio stations. Big band, jazz, classic country. And, unlike tinnitus phantom sounds, which are directionless, phantom music often seems to have a locus.

I’ve started keeping a log of what I sometimes hear, most often in the early to mid-afternoon. At some point, I’ll find a way to search AM radio play logs to find whose playlists I might be matching.

Given the characteristics of AM radio, it’ wouldn’t have to be a local station at all.

If birds can see colors we can’t perceive, if dogs can hear sounds beyond the capability of normal human hearing, then why can’t those of neurons rerouted because of tinnitus and hearing likewise detect sounds beyond the ken of “normal” hearing.

October 8, 2015 at 11:20 AM

Interesting theory, but I’m going to burst your balloon. If people with MES heard exactly what a given radio station is playing, then there would be merit in your ideas. However, what really happens is that they often hear what sounds like a radio station playing songs, music, whatever–but the SAME song is played over and over and over again. No radio station does that. Furthermore, it is not the whole song, but bits and pieces of it played endlessly.

This indicates that it is a partial memory that gets stuck in the auditory circuits of your brain and your brain treats it as though it was a real sound–so that is what you “hear”.

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August 4, 2016 at 9:45 PM

Please explain to me why I was able to record these phantom sounds of MES…Yes Sir I have recordings…Its so strange to be able to hear the music when the fan is blowing….but to record it too….And no I do not have hearing problems….please explain this for me. Thank You

August 5, 2016 at 6:28 AM

Hi Marketta:

The reason you could record these “phantom” sounds is that they were not really phantom sounds, but real sounds. The sound your fan makes is real and that is what you recorded. However how your brain interprets the constant sound from your fan is another thing. Read my article “ Apophenia, Audio Pareidolia and Musical Ear Syndrome ” to understand what is going on.

I have two questions for you. When you record these sounds and listen to them, do they sound exactly the same as when you actually heard them–same music–or is the music different in any way?

Second, when others listen to your recordings, do they hear the same music you hear, or do they hear this differently, or don’t hear the music at all, or just hear fan noise?

September 19, 2016 at 1:42 AM

Yes I actually hear what I recorded and I also write the sounds on paper. And the second question..I have to say no….I was so readyfor anyone to say they heardit too, I had two people to listen..One person said they didnt hear ananything,the second person heardthe fan blowing…..WhatI heardwas becoming so disturbing…..first spspiritual,beautiful, heavenly…..And then became very dark….I no lingerwant to write or record….but I felt like I had to continue.. so I recorded the dark sounds as well…I no longer want to listen…..I doall I ccanto drown it all out….the dark recordings sounds the same as I heard, wrotedown and recorded…You artcleexplains why…but I think you wonwon’tsee it the way we do that hear it……Its amazing……but disturbing also……Thank you……

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November 6, 2018 at 10:54 PM

Marketta if you get this message please email me [email protected] . I have recorded the fan motor as well and the Ed’s age is astonishing. Please let’s share and find a way to utilize this. It is definitely not hallucination.

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September 12, 2017 at 3:55 PM

So grateful to find this article. As I work in my quiet office that is without a radio, I’m singing along with “old McDonald had a Farm” Yesterday THE GOOD THE BAD THE UGLY… I thought I was going cuckoo.

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February 5, 2016 at 11:11 PM

Hi folks, I’ve had tinnitus for years – since from age 35-40 on. I’ve had occasional MES at a much earlier age, 20’s?? BTW – Many thanks to all for this website as I too have never wanted to mention hearing soft music or choral voices – usually late at night. After reading everyone’s comments, I wanted to share my thoughts. I really don’t believe that the main causative factors for MES can be ascribed to emotional or psychological reasons. Until recently, I truly did not have a perceptable hearing loss (I’ve now been diagnosed with a “reverse slope” hearing loss”). I do think there are probably some types of neurotransmission translations performed by our brains when our organic auditory neurons are stimulated. Not certain if this would be the auditory “hairs” or something else. Try researching tinnitus. No-one and I mean no-one can come up with a definitive reason or definitive relief for this. At least my MES is relatively soft and pleasant. My tinnitus is a forever loud screeching that never goes away. I’ve have to sleep with a white noise maker to be able to sleep at all. I can still occasionally sense MES over the white noise maker when my tinnitus is drowned out. Sorry about the long note. Thanks to all again.

February 6, 2016 at 1:27 PM

I don’t believe the MAIN causative factors in MES are emotional or psychological either. But both of these are certainly factors in lots of people with MES.

Furthermore, you don’t have to have hearing loss to have MES–but it is certainly more common in people with hearing loss.

Also, it does NOT arise from the cilia (auditory hairs) in the inner ear. It is almost certainly all in our brains.

There are still far too many unanswered questions. I wish I knew the answers.

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July 28, 2017 at 3:13 AM

I hear big band music too with commercials like from the fifties.

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October 22, 2015 at 1:47 AM

My 92 year old mother has recently been diagnosed with MES and I am sourcing information for her and hopefully some additional self-management strategies she can utilise – particularly at bed time when it seems to be at its loudest!

October 22, 2015 at 7:43 AM

This article and the associated book mentioned in the sidebar are probably the best sources of information on MES and how to successfully cope with it.

MES isn’t really louder at bedtime–it just seems like it as it is now quiet and any sounds seem louder by contrast. One good technique, if your mom has reasonably good hearing, is for her to listen to the bedside radio or listen to a CD of environmental sounds or music she likes. This will do two things. First it gives her brain real sounds to listen to, and second, it reduces the contrast between her MES and other sounds (basically quiet) so it is not as noticeable.

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December 26, 2016 at 8:05 AM

I have MES and I truly enjoy it. Instead of trying to get rid of it, maybe you mom could learn to enjoy it. My MES started about a year ago and believe it or not, it helps to put me to sleep at night. I have a hearing loss. I am 84 years old.

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October 29, 2015 at 6:15 PM

My 92 year old mother hears “an old man singing” and sometimes a vibration in her pillow. She is hard of hearing and does not where hearing aids. She has social interaction with family. Would hearing aids eliminate the singing if she wore them during the day?

October 30, 2015 at 8:10 AM

I doubt that wearing hearing aids would totally eliminate the “singing”, but they may well reduce how often she hears it. Wearing hearing aids (as long as there are things to hear) will give her brain real sounds to focus on and the MES sounds will tend to fade into the background.

Unfortunately, when she takes her aids off at night, then the MES tends to come back loud and clear!

The only way to know for sure whether hearing aids will help her is to try them and see. Typically, you have 30 days to try hearing aids before you are committed to purchase and keep them. Check with your dispenser before signing on the dotted line and if you choose not to keep them, be sure you have them back in the office before the closing date.

Note that they may charge you a fee of up to $300 for each hearing aid, so you could be out $600 just for trying them. So ask about how much they keep if you return them. Not everyone charges this much, and some places don’t keep a penny if you return them such as Costco and Sam’s Club.

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November 2, 2015 at 3:48 PM

Most of this article applies to me completely – female, old, severe hearing loss – beginning with ‘Silent Night’ (almost two years ago) and currently part of a tune (unknown to me) repeated over and over. Interestingly, I hear it sometimes in one ear and other times in the other. Fortunately I never felt I was going ‘nuts’ and was able to share this with my family. I have researched MES but this is the best article I have been able to find… thank you.

December 26, 2016 at 8:11 AM

Ditto! Old….84 years now. Severe hearing loss, Started with Silent Night. Female. Sounds like an all male choir. Excellent choir. I can cause them to change songs and enjoy them.

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September 23, 2020 at 3:27 PM

I hear Amazing Grace and Silent Night. Sometimes I hear old time country music. It was so bad at my sister’s house that I went downstairs to sleep on the couch. It stopped. Now why?

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March 24, 2019 at 10:36 PM

I hear several different songs, all familiar to me. I can change the songs when I get tired of the one playing over and over.

September 23, 2020 at 3:57 PM

You are lucky-in a way. I wish I could make it stop. Usually I just turn the TV on or move. to another area of the house.

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November 8, 2015 at 6:50 PM

I have never heard of MES, that other people hear phantom singing, etc. But this is often how I know I am dropping off to sleep. I often hear a choir singing beautiful harmonies. Somewhat indistinct, yes, and very elusive! Sometimes I catch enough of it to be able to sing the last few bars and words I heard. I do not read or write music, so I cannot transcribe the music. I just took it as a song the angels were singing, and letting me in on!

I also know that when I have been in a noisy social atmosphere and then I am alone in a quiet place, I do hear voices mimicking crowd noise. But this subsides after a while.

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November 21, 2015 at 10:54 PM

thank you so much, years ago when i was pregnant i heard children screaming out for help but it seemed farther away like downstairs or in the back of my apartment building or in the next building, this went on for hours and then it sounded like they were screaming for their mommy s and daddies for them to help, like they were in distress and it freaked me out because it was so real andi made myhusband search everywhere even though he couldnt hear anything and he just went with itbecausei was in tears and very serious on what i heard, i literly crried myself to sleep for a nap and he woke me up and told me i had to seesomething, on the news was a train wreck and the witnesses said there were a bunch ofschool children on the train and they were on a field trip and that when it happened all they could here from the ravine were these children crying for help and calling out to their parents but the funny part of it was i was in wisconsinand this was in maine… i believed deep inside iheard there painand since then ihear screams andcries for help and it makes me feel crazyand this helps me becaUSE THE CRAZINESS ISFROM NOTKNOWING WHERE THEY ARE AND KNOWING I CAN DO IS HEAR THEIR CRIES FOR HELP AND SUFFER WIT HTHEM

November 22, 2015 at 6:51 AM

A special kind of MES is caused by anxiety. For example, you have a young child in the bedroom and you hear him crying. But when you go to check, he is sleeping peacefully. Or you are in the shower and you hear the phone ring. These are caused by your anxiety that you are missing hearing the child or the phone–and your brain cooperates with you and voila–you hear a phantom cry or a phantom phone ringing.

However, what you experienced does not seem to fall into any category of MES sounds. What I believe you have experienced is a spiritual (or what some would call a paranormal) experience where you “hear” something “real” that is going to happen in the future. In your case, you actually saw the result on TV. In such cases distance is not relevant–it could be nearby or half way around the world.

I’ve heard a number of stories somewhat similar to yours where people have “seen” into the future.

However, in your case, it seems you are hearing this episode over and over in your head–as though you are reliving this episode again and again sort of like a post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) incident. Perhaps you should seek treatment such as they give PTSD patients to finally put this incident to rest.

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January 15, 2016 at 8:06 AM

Hi Neil, what brought me to your article via Google search is, that I also heard a male choir singing Silent Night yesterday in a store(when I left the store the singing stopped). So I find it very baffling that I also heard the same song sung by a male choir as the first person you mentioned in your article above. What do you think? Ilka

January 26, 2016 at 1:57 PM

It’s curious that your phantom music stopped when you left the store. If that is the only time you’ve heard such phantom sounds, I think maybe some sound in the store (perhaps a fan or air conditioning motor) caught your brain’s attention and it tried to make sense out of the sounds it was hearing–and turned it into Silent Night.

When you left the store, you couldn’t hear the background sound that triggered your phantom music, so it stopped. That’s my guess from the little information you provided.

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January 15, 2016 at 11:22 AM

I’m 36 yrs old and do not have any hearing impairment, but I hear an alto sax play the same piece repeatedly/daily at work. At home I sometimes hear the musical tone from my phone’s alarm clock during the early morning. I’m concerned because I don’t fit into the age or impairment categories described in this article. What is the likelihood that this is linked to a serious condition requiring urgent medical evaluation?

January 26, 2016 at 1:52 PM

The chances of something being dreadfully wrong in your head is pretty slim. You don’t have to fit the MES profile in order to hear weird phantom sounds. It’s just more likely you’ll hear them if you fit the profile.

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October 29, 2017 at 9:23 PM

I’m 66. I suddenly went deaf when I was 34. Have a C.I for 10 years. I hear beautiful ethereal music in my head, mostly when i’ going to sleep . I love it as its beautiful. I played guitar since age 15 so it’s comforting

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January 24, 2016 at 1:48 AM

I find you article interesting. I have 2 dogs and they bark and I can hear them with AIDS. The phenomenon you describe is what I am going through. I am hoh & use hearing aids & my family thinks I am nuts. I am a retired pharmacist so I understand what you are describing as true & I am not going nuts. Thank you very much. It’s much better knowing that other people have this problem. Thank you google.

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August 17, 2016 at 4:13 PM

My mom is 92 she hears music voices people screaming and people that she sees outside the window she sees the lady that screams at her down the hall

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January 24, 2016 at 3:47 PM

I had no idea why I kept hearing Silent Night. I do have Tinnitus and I do wear hearing aids. I may consult my doctor for further testing if he thinks it is necessary. Thank you so much for this WEB site. It certainly relieved my mind.

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January 26, 2016 at 11:34 AM

Hi I am hearing phantom like music in my left ear. I went to the ear, nose, and throat Dr and he said my hearing was child like which was almost excellent hearing he said my hearing was almost perfect. The Dr. refereed me to get an MRI to just rule out things which is scheduled soon. I am 30 and I looked up all the reasons this is happening and one thing I read if it is correct is of the Jaw I wear the clear braces and every since I started wearing them that is when the music has started. I’m not sure if that is the reason but after my MRI and I will go to a jaw specialist because my jaw cracks all the time and very hard to open my mouth wide with pressure.. My question is what do you think it is and is it early signs of Dementia? I have high anxiety so I’m looking at everything worried.

Thank you in advance for any help or advice

January 26, 2016 at 12:08 PM

You can put your mind at rest. The phantom music you are hearing is almost certainly NOT a sign of early dementia. But your high level of anxiety may be one cause. Obviously your temporomandibular joint is out of whack and giving your problems. This can cause tinnitus–one kind of phantom sounds–so may be causing your musical phantom sounds.

If your jaw and neck are tight, then you probably should see an upper cervical spine chiropractor, and/or a physiotherapist or massage therapist that knows how to reduce the trigger points on your face and neck that are causing your muscles to be so tight. This will help you–but if you don’t curb your anxiety, it will undo the good they do as fast as they do it.

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January 26, 2016 at 9:41 PM

I hear music randomly when I go to sleep. Its been going on for years. I cannot identify the song, but it vaguely sounds familiar. Anyone else?

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November 27, 2016 at 6:13 PM

Yes. My husband has suffered for some weeks from hearing songs from years ago at times during the day and night. Reading the articles above was quite a relief for him and I’m also grateful that now he has peace of mind and a words to describe what has caused him much anxiety. Thank you.

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January 29, 2016 at 5:13 PM

Thanks for this interesting article which has answered most if not all of my questions re MES. I am in my mid 60’s have slight hearing loss but recently my adult son who has type 1 diabetes has also been suffering seizures. Because on three occasions I heard him fall in his bedroom above our living area I keep hearing the sound of him falling and making the frightening noises he made during seizure. When I go upstairs he is fine. As we are awaiting test results from brain scan I know I am living on the edge and don’t have any background music or TV on ever in case he does fall again. Since I have sat here in silence for the last 4-5 months I have had MES starting with a kind of patriotic hymn, a brass band & ballroom music. Now today it started with Abide with me & later Islands in the stream, Jingle Bells & now back to Ballroom music. The strange thing is I can manipulate it to another similar tunes or slow it right down. All the characteristics you mention fit me. I have been distressed. stressed, nervous and sitting in silence in a quiet house has most likely brought this on. Tomorrow I am having the real radio on softly in the background to see what happens .

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February 3, 2016 at 11:03 AM

I have been having musical tinnitus for 2 months and it’s driving me crazy. It’s was once fade away in 3 weeks but next day it again started and since then it’s like high and low and I can hear different find of sound music and also it some times vibrate my body. If I go on listening to the sound then I can feel some vibration around my body. I don’t know what to do. Will it fade away? Deppressed with this.

February 4, 2016 at 2:13 PM

Some people, myself included, sometimes feel this phantom vibration in addition to our various Musical Ear Syndrome sounds. So you are not alone with this, not that this makes it any easier to experience.

Your phantom music faded away once, so it may do so again. Don’t let it bother you. The more you stress over it, or the more depressed you get over it, the more it will tend to stick around and even get louder.

Learn to ignore it and listen to real sounds instead.

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February 7, 2016 at 10:11 AM

This just started with me after Christmas.

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February 11, 2016 at 9:12 PM

Hello, I am so thankful for this information! My elderly Mother has been complaining of this since Christmas, and is having the exact symptoms described. I just Fedexed the info to my parents. Thank you so very much!

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February 15, 2016 at 4:18 PM

I am experiencing the “radio announcer in the other room” form of MES, although I have also “heard” a singer in a rock band. I have terrible tinnitus so I naturally assumed it was somehow related. I can never make out the exact words just the monotonous “talking”. I take trazadone at night for sleep and I wonder if it’s a side effect of that medication.

February 15, 2016 at 8:31 PM

If your MES was related to taking Trazodone, then I would have expected your MES to have started in the weeks after you began the Trazodone. Is that what happened? If so, it could well be the Trazodone as it is reported as causing hallucinations.

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February 18, 2016 at 8:05 AM

my retired catholic nun aunt lives by herself at 80 years of age with loss of hearing. she has had MES for years. She lives in a mobile home village and complains of the neighbors screaming and yelling. the managers of the park called me and are worried about her mental health which has compounded the problem now with added stress. I copied the entire article and sent it to my aunt who has no computer. I’ll try to get it to her doctor too. This was a real eye opener for me and I hope she takes the info and runs with it. Thank you

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February 26, 2016 at 4:47 AM

I have been hearing what seems like a radio station playing bits and pieces of what I think are songs some I recognize some I do not for a few months now and it is really driving me nuts. I don’t know if I am going crazy or if it is part of getting old. I am a 47 year old man who lives in the Country alone. I can never make out what the song is but I know it is a song and this happens everyday most days all day long. I am not going to say anything to my Family Dr as I am sure he will think I need to be admitted to the Psych ward. I found this page and it explains some of what I am going thru but not all of it. I know I have good hearing I know I am not crazy which from what I have read seem to be 2 key contributors to this MES thing you speak of but I am neither so why am I hearing this / imagining I am hearing this ?

March 6, 2016 at 10:14 AM

What you are hearing sounds like a classic case of Musical Ear Syndrome. You are not crazy, but you are hearing phantom sounds. Just because you don’t fit the common profile for having MES, doesn’t mean you don’t have it. People of all ages can experience MES. So do hearing people.

So why are you hearing this now? There could be any number of reasons. For example, you might be losing some of your high-frequency hearing that you are not aware you are losing. That could be one good possibility. You could be on certain drugs or medications that cause such sounds. You could be under a lot of stress, or anxious or depressed that can trigger MES.

Sometimes you can find the likely cause by thinking back to before the MES sounds started and see what recently changed back then.

March 5, 2016 at 6:14 AM

your tool bar to subscribe to the MES list does not appear to be working

March 5, 2016 at 7:59 AM

You’re right. Sorry–I forgot to change the code when I changed the website to WordPress.

It should be working now.

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March 6, 2016 at 9:25 PM

I am a 71 year old male who suffered a traumatic brain injury in September of 2015 (car crash). I lost much of my hearing in the accident. My MES began about 6 weeks after the accident and coincided with hearing aids in both ears being “turned up.” My tunes are complex and take the form of a very talented men’s chorus, usually with orchestration.They are with me most of my waking hours, but less so when my brain is actively engaged with another activity. The songs are sometimes simple chord progressions that repeat while raising an octave each time. Those are the most annoying ones. If I can focus intensely, I can invoke an actual song from my playlist. As I write this, I am enjoying my men’s chorus singing Elvis Presley’s version of It’s Now or Never. Other tunes on my playlist are the , Hallelujah Chorus and Ruby, a song made popular by Ray Charles. There are two or three others.

I am currently being treated by a John’s Hopkins Otologist for my hearing loss. I have an appt to see a Hopkins Neurologist for my MES, and I am in the process of making an appt to see a psychologistalso for my MES. I fit much of the criteria: Old, sudden hearing loss, depressed, anxious. I just thought I would pass this along as further anecdotal evidence of MES. Thank you for giving it a name! I am now on about my 500th iteration of It’s Now or Never. Fortunately, my singers don’t keep me awake at night.

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March 17, 2016 at 4:56 PM

I’m not seeing an exact match for what I’m trying to describe. Mine seems to follow the sound of something I just turned off, like my phone alarm, or hung up the phone with someone I’ll still hear that same ring tone, or finish playing a video with a loud enough repetitive music/beat/sound and it’ll just keep playing and playing and playing, but I know that it is turned off, and it sounds like it’s a bit in the distance (like just around the corner and/or in another room), but I hear it clearly enough to know what the sound is. Really, it just annoys me… I think my main issue is, for some reason I don’t think in sound, I think everything visually, which takes me forever to speak coherent sentences, so to start hearing things like this that I know are not real, or I know is not coming from what I just turned off, it’s driving me a bit nuts. this has been happening for about a year or so. I lost some hearing in junior high due to being sick that blocked my ears for 3 months, so that damage was permanent, but it only affect specific keys/tones, if someone so happens to have a certain octave for their voice range, I ask them to please adjust it up or down a few notes so that I can clearly hear what is being said., otherwise, I hear just fine. I’m going on 31 years old, now. but as I said, I lost hearing in Junior High, but this is only been affecting me the past year or so. Does this still fall under MES?

I also forget to mention, that the sounds/music/tunes/tones can continue on from a range of a few minutes to a few hours, it’s so random. I wish I knew how to turn it off… funny, I use to play the piano by ear, I still somewhat can, but it’s hard to explain for someone who doesn’t think in sound, and now I’m hearing repetitive stuff… I sometimes wonder if it’s more of a blessing I don’t think in sound, because if this distracts me so much as it is, what would it be like to try to sift through my own thoughts. >.< (cringes from that thought).

March 31, 2016 at 7:11 AM

In my opinion, what you are experiencing falls under the umbrella of MES. Some people hear it more as mimicking what they just heard–just like you are explaining.

I’ve had similar experiences when I’d drive my old pickup down the freeway with the windows open and listening to classical music (loud so I could hear it). When I shut the radio off, I’d still hear the music. It was less clear–but still very musical.

In my case, the road noise and tire noise, etc. all combined to produce musical sounds like I was just hearing. After 15 to 30 minutes, the time varied–just like yours does. Depending on how long I’m driving and on traffic conditions, the music would fade into just plain road noise. This is very similar to what you are experiencing.

I never worried about this phantom music as it was still pleasant to me and I knew it would go away eventually.

Why do you think you got this about a year ago? Did you lose more hearing last year?

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March 19, 2016 at 3:01 PM

Thank you Dr. Bauman. I was diagnosed with a Vestibular Schwannoma, and this explains a lot. I lost all of my hearing in my right ear that is on the tumor side, unfortunately that was my good ear. I also have tinnitus. My tumor is 2.2 cm, just 3 weeks ago I had gamma knife radiation. I was really worried when I awoke at night knowing the downstairs tv wasn’t on, but still “hearing” it. Thank you very much!

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March 20, 2016 at 9:27 PM

My 92 year old mother meets all the requirements of MES, lives alone, severe hearing loss, doesn’t always wear her hearing aids, etc. She claims that the two men next door wake her up every night playing music, preaching (she says one one to be a preacher) and she can hear what they are saying in the house next door. My question is she read your article, said yes it sounded familiar, but it isn’t her as she is sure she hears it and it is keeping her up all night. She is fully functional in every other way. If I call her doctor and he says something to her she will know I called and be so mad at me. What should the doctor say to her? Should I call and tell her doctor? I need some guidance. Thank You, Joanie

April 1, 2016 at 8:39 AM

Your mother definitely has Musical Ear Syndrome. One of the hallmarks of MES is that the person truly believes that they are hearing real sounds when, in fact, they are totally phantom. In other words, her brain has her completely fooled.

If you can talk to her rather than her doctor talking to her, it would be a good idea to point out in my article that a hallmark of MES is being completely fooled. Reiterate to her that what she is hearing truly are phantom sounds. Teach her how to distinguish real sounds from phantom sounds. The easiest way is for her to put the pillow over her ears if she’s in bed. If the sounds are still just as loud, then you know they have to be phantom because the pillow is blocking out real sounds. If the sounds fade out when the pillow is over her ears, then she knows they are real sounds because when she takes the pillow away, they go back to their full volume again.

Unless her doctor knows about Musical Ear Syndrome, he will probably refer her to a psychiatrist and the psychiatrist will put her on antipsychotic drugs. This won’t help things at all, just make her a mental case, and you don’t want that to happen.

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March 23, 2016 at 9:12 PM

Hi, this blog is interesting and informative; I have had tinnitus and hearing loss for about a year now. I wear hearing aids; About 2 months ago, in the middle of the night, I heard a familiar song; it scared me to death! Did I have a temporal seizure, tumor, psychotic?? I am a Cardiologist and this was truly frightening to me; I visited my PMD and was a little hesistant to share my newly acquired MES; I did, and I went to my Audiologist, who is wonderful; she reassured me that my hearing loss, tinnitus, made MES not unusual; I also saw an ENT who confirmed; My music is patriotic, Christmas songs, old songs; that I used to play on an organ when I was 8!; Also, in the morning I hear a radio broadcast introducing songs, giving commentary, etc; I keep thinking my alarm clock that I set to music was going off; and no, it was not; The most disturbing was if I thought of a song I would hear it in my ear! Has anyone else experienced that? As a physician, I find this completely weird; I am 55 years old, hearing aids for a year and a half; this MES is recent; I appreciate everyone;s comments and Dr. Bauman’s replies; I also have bouts of vertigo and diagnosed as Meniere’s disease; I have read that the thiazide diuretics, prednisone; and ear injections only treat the vertigo and not the MES or tinnitus; has anyone had ear injections? MES is very distracting; occurs 24/7′ difficult to concentrate; I have been on lasix 40mg bid for 14 years for recurrent edema; could this be the cause of all of this?? I cannot get a straight answer from my associates and would gladly stop the lasix in a second if I thought it would help; I think of years ago, if elderly or non-elderly people experienced this that they would be labeled as schizophrenic; I am grateful to be in this century, and their is a non-psychiatric diagnosis for this; even as a physician, this is a bit scary; Thanks to all of you;

March 31, 2016 at 9:28 AM

Hi Kathleen:

If you have Meniere’s disease, I’d suggest you read my comprehensive article “Atlas Adjustments Alleviate Meniere’s Disease. You can read it at . It may be that you can not only eliminate your Meniere’s, but also other conditions you have.

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March 29, 2016 at 1:16 PM

Hi, I’m a very active,athletic, young 56 year old operating room nurse. In 1997, while positioning an obese patient on the operating room table, a bracket broke and the patient under anesthesia started to fall off the OR table. I was able to catch her and wrestle her back up on the table, preventing what would have been a catastrophic injury for her had I not. Unfortunately, I sustained multiple herniated disc in both my back and neck from this experience. Over the years I’ve experienced eleven spine surgeries, multiple epidurals, spine stimulators …etc, Throughout the years, Doctors have prescribed high doses of steroids both oral and injectable, multiple different NSAIDs, narcotics, antibiotics. Approximately nine years ago I started experiencing ringing in my ears but tried not to pay attention to it. As the ‘ringing’ increased in loudness, I started informing my physician of my experience. My children and friends started to joke that I was becoming deaf and not listening to them. As time progressed, my coworkers noted I could not hear what was being said. I realized that since we wear face masks in the operating room, I could not read their lips and was not understanding them. This is a very big problem in my line of work!! I see a Doctor for my back issues and explained to him that my hearing was becoming increasingly worse. The ringing was so loud it was drowning out people’s voices. Per request of my employer, I went to an otologist, and was fit for hearing aids, bilateral. (ARGH! Who knew insurance companies do not consider hearing a necessity! I had to pay out of pocket $7K for these little jewels!). This fell on ‘deaf ears’ as far as the Doctor was concerned. He only slightly mentioned that it may have been caused by the medications. As my back has continued to deteriorate, they increased the dosage of steroids, NSAIDs, narcotics, and I continued to notice a greater issue with my hearing loss and tinnitus. Last June, I had a seven level lumbar fusion. Again while in the hospital I received very high doses of antibiotics, steroids, narcotics. Once I returned home, I started experiencing musical notes… It wasn’t pleasant, soothing songs as others describe, but the skreetching type of electrical keyboard noise the band ‘White Stripes’ make. At first I thought it was my neighbor but as weeks went on and the rather loud music continued, I decided it was something more. My daughter acknowledged that since the surgery my hearing had drastically become worse. I’ve continued to inform my Doctors and finally was sent to yet another otologist that stated he felt my hearing loss was caused by the high doses of medications over the years. My hearing loss is now evaluated at approximate 65% and without hopes of returning. Since this was a ‘work comp’ injury to begin with, all the Doctors associated with the hospital I was employed at the time are refusing to associate the medication prescribed and my hearing loss. They state there is not enough evidence to prove otherwise so they do not consider themselves even remotely responsible in helping acquire future hearing devices. Could you please assist me in finding all the studies I can that would help me when I have to go to them yet again with my request? I apologize for the lengthy letter but am in dire need of all the information I can get due to the legal team of the hospital being adamant that they have no responsibility.

Thank you for your help, Joy

March 31, 2016 at 7:58 AM

Your doctors are acting like arrogant asses–especially since you were injured saving one of their patients. They have as much as admitted that the drugs were the likely cause–and I concur. But they won’t do anything to help you because they don’t want to admit liability in prescribing these drugs and causing you further damage.

You are in a tough spot since they will stonewall anything you try to prove.

Even if you have studies that prove certain drugs can cause hearing loss, they will say that it did not happen in your case–that there is no PROOF that drugs caused your hearing loss.

Unfortunately, few drugs have studies done that prove hearing loss. Apart from a few notable exceptions such as Cisplatin, Furosemide and aminoglycoside antibiotics, its basically circumstantial evidence that shows the connection between drugs and hearing loss–not double-blind studies. Thus there is no absolute proof.

Having said that, there is a preponderance of circumstantial evidence that this did happen in your case.

Perhaps the best way to approach it is to privately send me a list of the drugs you have been taking and I can give you a number of anecdotal reports of people in the same boat as you–losing hearing from taking those drugs.

When only one person loses hearing from taking a drug, you put it down to coincidence. However, when you have numbers of people with the same results, you begin to see a trend. You can’t write them all off as coincidences.

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August 20, 2016 at 2:46 AM

Dr. Bauman, I will likely post a comment describing my MES experience, now that I know what it is – this note is to extend my thanks to you for your in-depth replies here, and your offer to help the OR nurse with a drug interactions analysis.

It is so very rare to find anyone who offers help out of simple kindness, with no expectation of a reward on the “back end.”

The information you provide is much appreciated, and your human-ness – for lack of a better word – is exceptional and all too rare. It warms my heart, to put it plainly, and I am better for having found your work.

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February 22, 2017 at 9:50 PM

Dr. Bauman, I’d like to thank you as well for the tremendous amount of information you provide. In reading these posts and your responses it is clear that you are truly considering each person’s situation and taking the time to reply to them in detail. Your generosity is a rare thing to find these days.

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April 1, 2020 at 2:35 AM

Hello doctor, I’m 26 years old. About six months ago I got high on a mixture of cough syrup and bad weed and I had a really bad trip where I heard noises the next morning like clics or tongue flicks. Fastforward to about three months ago my ears get blocked I thought maybe cuz of water but after a while only my ear goes back to normal (still gets blocked sometimes) and the left ear is still problematic. So lately when I wake up at 5 A.M. I hear a Samsung alarm tone going on and like it’s coming from my parents room and when I ask them if they set the alarm they said no. I’m scared doctor that the drugs messed me up for good or that I’ll never get rid of these hearing problems. Do you think the drugs did it? How do I fix it?

April 5, 2020 at 10:48 AM

I’m no expert on how so-called recreational drugs affect people’s brains and whether such changes are permanent or not. My expertise lies in how drugs affect our ears.

Is the blocked sensation you have real–in that your Eustachian tubes are blocked from a cold for example, or is this sensation a psychological sensation where they feel blocked, but are not physically blocked. With the former, you should notice a bit of hearing loss at the same time.

This “phantom” alarm clock–does it go off at exactly the same time every day without fail–same on weekends as on weekdays? Is there any other background sound happening at the same time–such as the furnace cutting in at that time?

It’s possible you have Musical Ear Syndrome–which is nothing to be worried about, or if it is from a background sound, you could have audio pareidolia which also is nothing to be worried about as it is a natural occurrence.

I need more information before I can really help you.

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April 4, 2016 at 9:56 PM

For about 6 months now I have been hearing singing, christmas carols, songs from when I was a child, and other unnamed songs. It’s always pleasant music and soft in the background.

In the past 6 I have fallen and hit my head pretty hard. First time I needed 13 staples in the back of my head.

Is it possible the hits on the head could be the cause of this? I am hard of hearing. I see a neurologist regularily for dizziness. I think I’ll bring it up to her at my next appointment.

April 10, 2016 at 1:21 PM

It is possible as brain lesions can cause MES. The hit to your head could have caused some damage that healed up and left a scar or lesion. This may have resulted in your MES sounds.

There could be other reasons for your MES, but this is a distinct possibility in your case.

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April 14, 2016 at 5:44 AM

hello! i have a funny situation. it seems lately when a radio station is playing in a store or a restaurant, or even in my home, all i can hear is like … church bells. lol or this like giant reverb sound like someone is whacking a piece of sheet metal. my mom, my daughter, and all the employees at said places MUST think im nuts! but i have a pretty well trained ear. ive been playing music and mixing and mastering recordings for quite some time now. at first i thought it was the sound echoing off the tile floors in the house. then i heard it while at the eye doctors and was convinced i was very sensitive to a particualar stations effect chain. now ive heard it on two different stations. hear it almost every time a radio station is playing. when i get a spare minute im going to mic the radio and see if i can isolate the frequency where this noise occurs, as im sure of what i hear. whats your take on this if you dont mind? i think my family is getting concerned! YIKES lol

April 14, 2016 at 7:31 AM

My first thought is that your ears have suffered acoustic trauma (a sudden loud sound for example) that has resulted in grossly distorted sound. This can happen even without causing you any hearing loss. Is this what happened recently?

As a musician and sound engineer, depending on how loud you listen to music, you could have damaged your ears this way too.

The “cure” typically is to give your ears lots of rest from louder sounds. This could take several months for your ears to “heal” and the distortion go away.

However, every time you expose them to a loud sound, you can make it worse and have to start all over again.

Think of a bruise. It takes time to heal, and if you whack it while it is healing it just takes longer and longer to heal. That is a good analogy to your ears healing from acoustic trauma.

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October 15, 2019 at 11:46 AM

Finally! Someone with the same exact issue. My wife thinks I am crazy because it is literally only the radio that has this sound. Thought at first it was the radio in the car, but I listened in another car = same thing. When they have the radio on in a restaurant or something I still hear it. ONLY the radio, not Spotify, CDs, or even MP3s. I’m seeing an ENT to see if it is something treatable or related to sinus issues. Still just glad to know someone else has experienced this as well. – Cheers

April 14, 2016 at 8:43 AM

HI MR. Bauman, thanks for your response! well sometimes i listen to music at quite a high level. ok… all the time. i just cant understand why it is the radio in particular. its as if im hearing all sorts of effects on the sound. reverb, echo, harmonic generation. and the sound im hearing is the same on all radio stations. i mic’d the radio a few hours ago and could not capture exactly which frequency this effect happens at. so i deduced that it is a wide spectrum harmonic overtone, or undertone even. i will try and give the ears a rest. sometimes i just … cant believe my ears lol. its wild. in the meantime… i will continue to try and find out how a radio station typically processes their sound before sending over the air waves. thanks again Mr. Bauman! have a great day!

April 14, 2016 at 9:11 AM

Listening to anything at high levels eventually damages your ears. However, you have no control over the kind of damage it does. You may get hearing loss or tinnitus or distorted hearing or hyperacusis or all of these. That is why you NEED to be sensible and keep the level down–or you’ll just make things worse as time goes by.

I wouldn’t worry to much about the exact frequency. That can change. Focus on protecting your ears from now on.

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April 15, 2016 at 3:34 AM

I have been experiencing MES for about 2 years now. Four years ago, I found my 3 1/2 year old twin daughters murdered by my estranged husband during his weekend visitation. He took his life as well. I recently went to an inpatient treatment program for trauma victims. I had known I was hearing music, radio sounds and others like a train going by my apartment. I was having a conversation with another patient that I had a lot in common with and, out of nowhere, he looked me straight in the face and said “do you hear music that isn’t there?” I actually smiled because I knew then that I wasn’t the only one. I think he was relieved als . In these years since my daughters’ deaths, I am alone a majority of the time by choice. I cannot be around loud noises and become extremely anxious around most people. I panic when someone knocks on the door because I will have to interact and I am not prepared or in control of the situation but it seems to getting easier very slowl . Thank you for this article. I was happy once again to read about what was happening to me. I recently moved to a new apartment and almost asked my downstairs neighbors if they listened to a radio in their bathroom in the morning. Now I’m kinda glad I didn’t 🙂

April 16, 2016 at 7:23 AM

I’m sorry about your daughters. That was awful. The stress of this obviously has something to do with your hearing the phantom sounds. You need to continue to deal with your anxiety so you can get your life back to normal and not fear sounds, or worse things can happen.

Hopefully, as you get your anxiety under control, your MES will fade away.

I wish you well.

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April 22, 2016 at 2:57 AM

I hear music that I have been rehearsing with soloists for a coming event – both the piano music that I play and the singers. This is during the day especially when I am doing a study course by the internet, having to read a lot of the material on screen. When I have to put the headphones on to listen to a video as part of the course, the other sounds go away. However, when I composed songs a few years ago, I woke up at night and heard the songs that I had written. When the songs came to an emotive part, I reacted as if I was in the audience – and then I knew that the song was “right”. And when it was sung by a group on stage, it had the same effect on them. Both of these events don’t worry me. However, I think I’ll turn the radio on to have it play in the background to see if it cuts the rehearsed songs out. It might help me concentrate on the study material!

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April 23, 2016 at 8:47 AM

Fascinating! God bless Google. I get answers to all my questions. I was tired last night and went to bed early. At 3:30 I woke to pee and while trying to get back to sleep I heard a loud swooshing sound, like a leak sprung in a steam pipe. I’ve had this before, of course, and, as far as I can recall, only while in bed. I am 88 years old and have had hearing loss over the last 10-15 years but this would be Tinnitus, not MES, dammit. It has been with me for many years. I may have experienced the same sound in my teens, as well. It comes rarely. ] I realized, of course, that it is some type of phenomenon and not real but it never concerned me enough to mention it to anyone or do research on it. I was concerned about ten years ago when I developed an occasional discharge of a liquid substance in my left ear. When stretched out on my left side, I could feel it drip into my outer ear. Rolling over to the right side finds it dripping back into the ear canal. The substance would dry on the skin in my ear and then flake, like sunburned skin. I saw three different ENT men who were baffled by it. One had me get an MRI, another got me a C-Scan; no one saw anything. I wrote to a number of top ENT clinics around the U.S. (I now live in Canada) and Harvard’s ENT Clinic was the only one that had referred to such a discharge in their texts. They asked me to donate my temporal bone after death and I’m probably frustrating them by continuing to live, seemingly forever.

Yes, I “hear” music but when I direct my mind to it. I’m not an educated musician but I’ve written a large number of songs and have had over 30 released records. I found that many trained composers have difficulty composing but when I “think” of music, my mind is able to rearrange the notes to create new combinations. Not able to notate, I’ve always used arrangers to take dictation. In the early days I had difficulty with them because I would hear a note in my head which they couldn’t play. It didn’t exist on the piano. Then I realized I was hearing chords.

It is comforting to have learned about MES and Tinnitus. The last time I saw my ENT specialist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto he asked me if I was a retired priest. (I’ve been an atheist all my life) I wondered if the ear canal might have revealed that I’ve been chaste for 30 years after separating from my wife. I mean, medicine can tell us so much.

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May 2, 2016 at 4:34 AM

Thank you all for your contributions! For who may be interested i can recommend checking on the book “MUSICOPHILIA” by Oliver Sacks.

May 2, 2016 at 7:12 AM

The only part of Musicophilia that has anything to do with Musical Ear Syndrome is Chapter 6 on musical hallucinations. The rest is unrelated. But Chapter 6 is quite interesting and follows much of what I have found to be true.

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May 13, 2016 at 5:38 PM

Dear Neil Thankyou got this brilliant resource.

I have just returned from visiting my father in hospital. He has significant hearing loss and has been admitted 3 times in 3 months in acute renal acidosis. During this last admission his BP dropped and he required inotropic support. He became acutely confused and his right face dropped. He made a good recovery until a week later (yesterday) he suddenly became confused again. Today he was lucid but was crying about the music he was being tortured with.

I am an ophthalmologist and with a bit of careful questioning I deduced that he was suffering from an auditory version of Charles bonnet syndrome.

Checking on line I found your article- for which I think you.

The relief on his face when I could explain to him what was happening was amazing.

Now we just need to work out if he has had a stroke causing it or if it is due to the metabolic upset (or both)

May 15, 2016 at 8:49 AM

You’re the first ophthalmologist I’ve heard from that has deduced that MES is an analogous condition to Charles Bonnet Syndrome, which it most definitely is. You’ve got great insight.

So many people who read my Musical Ear Syndrome article tell me of the relief they feel when they realize they are not crazy, nor do they have some dreadful brain tumor. This makes it ever so much easier to bear.

His MES could be from the stroke, any hearing loss he has, from any of a number of drugs that cause auditory hallucinations, etc.

Even if it doesn’t go away, he now knows it is just a benign condition and he can just ignore it, or listen to it if he likes the music.

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May 14, 2016 at 10:25 PM

Hi Neil. It’s 3.15 am here and I am hearing angelic notes, almost like tubular bells or chimes repeating the same few notes in a pattern sometimes distant and sometimes a bit louder but not really loud. I thought maybe a game was left playing on my phone but it’s not the case. I heard it start while feeding the baby. It’s just so strange. I am not hard of hearing and the sounds I hear are not familiar. I would value your opinion please as even I think it couldn’t be right. Lack of understanding i guess or maybe i am crazy…thank you.

May 15, 2016 at 8:11 AM

Hi Siobhan:

I’d set your mind at rest. You don’t have any indications that you are crazy. It’s just your brain and auditory system having some “fun” at your expense.

There are some causes for hearing people to hear these MES sounds. Perhaps you are overtired. After all, it IS #;15 AM. It could be that there is a fan of some sort running. Good numbers of people find their brains try to make sense out of the fan noise–and make music out of it. However, I’ve never heard the “fan music” described as bell or chime kind of sounds. Maybe there is a real, faint sound in the background that your brain is converting into the chime sounds you are hearing.

In any case, it’s really nothing to worry about if it only happens the odd time.

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May 21, 2016 at 7:11 AM

As the caregiver for my 91 year old mom, my husband and I freaked out when my mom became a raving maniac accusing us of lying to her about the noises she was hearing. She has hearing aids (only wears them occasionally) and this music started after she began a course of antidepressants. It was awful. We went to the doctor and he took her off the meds indicating that if it was related to them, the music should go away in 2-3 weeks. It hasn’t. She is now very cognizant of the music and describes it as a man with a low voice singing operatic type music. It keeps her awake at night and I think, due to her age she becomes frightened especially when she can’t sleep. The aftermath is worse than the actual episode of hearing the music. You article has shed so much light on the issue and now we all recognize it as MES and try to be more patient with all of the other symptoms that can arise. Thank you.

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May 25, 2016 at 3:23 AM

I have been hearing musical sounds since I was a child. It never actually bothered me, as I was an only child. It only became evident that this is not normal, when I went to study music. None of my musical friends had the ability to hear music as I do. Often, while people are talking, my thoughts will catch a word in a conversation and the whole song related to this word, will play in the background, until my brain catches another phrase. When I’m stressed, my mind subconsciously plays classical music. Yesterday for example, I heard “Fur Elise” the whole day!! I am not an expert, but I always thought this was because my mother stimulated me musically as a child, even in her womb. I could play the piano when I was four and played songs I heard on the radio easily by ear. Now at age 42, I have a name for my condition. It really doesn’t bother me, and I wouldn’t want to change at all. I work alone a lot and I live alone with only my dogs. My hearing is impaired, so the music in my head is at least comforting. I dislike being sociable as conversations with more than one person is very difficult to comprehend. So I will stick to my MES and be at peace!

May 25, 2016 at 6:23 AM

When you say you have been hearing music since a child, I’d like to know whether you hear the music in your mind–it is running through your mind, or whether it sounds real–as though it was coming from your ears? The former would be called an “ear worm”, while the latter would be MES.

Also, if the answer above is MES, when you heard the music was there any real, constant background sound–perhaps a fan running, or a motor or something like that?

Also, were you born with a hearing loss, or did it come later?

Being a peace with your internal music is great. Far too many people aren’t and let it drive them buggy.

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May 26, 2016 at 4:05 PM

I’ve experienced this since childhood. THANK EVERYBODY ESP the good DR. Can anybody remember an episode of starTrek when the crew would hearing audible whispering?

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May 26, 2016 at 10:41 PM

Hi, Super interesting Article!! I am female and 20 years old. I am about to finish my music degree in Classical performance. At the moment I am playing in a musical every night and when I come home to sleep, I can’t sleep because the whole score is playing over and over in my head. This has happened before in other shows I have played in. I used to think it was just an ear worm, but the more I talk about it with other musicians the more I think that my ‘auditory memories’ are a lot more detailed then other peoples. When the music is playing in my head it is the whole ensemble playing, flute to percussion. Sometime I also think that I the phone is ringing, and I have a super good recall of people’s voices and past conversations? I am not so much worried but more interested? Do some people have better auditory memory than others, given I don’t really fit the older age gap category etc- It would be unusual that I have this syndrome? At the moment it is just annoying because it is interrupting my sleep- but I know it will probably go away after the show run finishes.

May 27, 2016 at 7:13 AM

From what you have explained, I do not think you have MES. You say “…the score is playing over and over IN my head”. That is not how people with MES would describe it. They HEAR it as coming from their ears. I really think you ave ear worms, not MES.

And as you say, it will likely go away when the show run is over and you are not so stressed over it.

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June 7, 2016 at 4:36 PM

Hello, I am a semi retired musician. I worked as a studio musician in Los Angeles during the 60s- 2000 using head phones. In addition, i mad many rock and roll tours.

As you would expect, I have a severe hearing loss with severe tinnitus. In my late forties I noticed the tinnitus. At that time I started suffering cluster headaches. Every april through june. There was no relief for them.

The ear nose and throat dr who diagnosed the headaches had a theory about clusters having something to do with biorhythms because of the reaccurance every spring, and the fact that I never got them when i was working in the studeo or during shows on stage. The minute I left the stage or the studio one would come on.

At this same time, I started to have musical hallucinations; very vivid ones. Whole bands playing the same parts and rhythms over and over. I talked to my doctor about it. He out me through all the tests for brain tumours and so forth.

When I found out that it my brain reacting to stimuli or lack of it, I started playing around with it. I found that I could manipulate things to a point. I could slow the tempos down, or increase them. I could change the pitch. When I discovered that, what had been mostly bass and drum sounds became more like synthesizer sounds.

I am 76 now. My headaches stopped 12 years ago and my whole tinnitus and musical hallucination thing changed. Now I have a hotel room air-conditioner sound like a surround sound. I have a small mens choir singing the same patterns at about 10 o’clock. Sparkly tiny bird sounds all over the spectrum. Like most people with this syndrome, the sounds ebb and flow, probably for all the reasons everyone cites in this blog.

In that respect, My doctor thought that the rushing and rolling sound may have been my ear “hearing” the blood rushing through an artery and supplying tonality to watch it. I, more than ever believer that. As I write this the mens voices have mostly subsided and ,not through any effort on mine, that has left the whooshing bare.

I am fortunate in that I can keep my mind busy and block them out. I have found that concentration is my saviour in that respect. Losing myself in a book is like a sleeping pill. Thanks for this wonderful blog. My doctor passed away in the 70s and I have always wanted to tell someone knowledgeable about my experiences. You are elected.

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June 10, 2016 at 5:37 AM

I’ve suffered from what I consider severe, constant tinnitus for several years. It’s pretty much the classic whistle/buzz/humm at varying levels and I’ve gotten used to it for the most part. Once in a while, even during my youth, I had auditory (and sometimes visual) hallucinations – someone calling my name or a faint radio station sound. I was diagnosed with narcolepsy some years ago, so there’s that.

In the past couple of years, however, I’ve started having the musical hallucinations in varying degrees. Sometimes the songs in my head are clear and distinct, although they seem distant, as well. Sometimes there is just the ‘feeling’ of musical construction to the sounds, and they are more repetitive.

More and more lately I have strange, distorted sounds like muted hissing in sequences of two or three ‘bursts’, almost a rapid hydraulic sound, with an accompanying mild electrical type jolt to my head. It almost feels as if my head is moving when the bursts occur, but I don’t believe it is. This almost always occurs in the evening, although not necessarily when I’m trying to sleep. There is a nightmarish quality to these bursts and they are, quite frankly, frightening. I have a mild anxiety reaction to them.

I’ve had the full gamut of sleep related visual and auditory hallucinations. Exploding head, Alice in Wonderland, sleep paralysis, night terrors. You name it and I’ve had it when it comes to these anomalies. But now the tinnitus and these musical and hydraulic bursts are moving it to the 24/7 category.

For the record, I’m now 61 years old and my hearing is normal, but the hallucinations have occurred off and on since I was a pre-teen and are now nearly constant. My doctor has requested a neuro consult.

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June 21, 2016 at 7:30 PM

Hi thank you so much for this information! I am now into my third night of MES with only managing 5 hours sleep in total of the 2 nights! As i am here in a separate bed from my partner as they can’t hear the music i decided to google what the hell is going on and it makes so much sense! I’m not hard of hearing, but do have tinitus which i have never discussed with my doctor, and i’m also suffering with anxiety. I’ve been absolutely convinced my neighbour has been playing loud, clear, formed music, but my parner said i was nuts and nothing was coming from next door! Sooo loud and clear though! I thought it was my partner that was nuts, until tonights music is a choice that I definitely knew he wouldn’t listen to esp over and over!! I tried moving rooms and still as loud and clear! Thank you for this information Neil! I guess it’s time to speak to my doctor!

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February 6, 2019 at 8:07 PM

I have only experienced this recently, sometimes here and there but always happens intensely when I have had trouble sleeping for a few nights. I am 34 now. When I was about six years old till I was about 10 years old I had severe sleep deprivation and I would hallucinate and see things that weren’t there. Could my problem be that I’m not getting enough sleep and that’s what brings this on for me?

February 7, 2019 at 5:37 PM

Hi Jessica:

Severe lack of sleep brings on hallucinations–whether visual or aural or with the other senses. So the answer is to get lots of sleep and see whether your still experience these hallucinations or not.

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June 26, 2016 at 5:17 PM

I want to know about treatment for MES. I have had it for years along with hearing loss. This is greatly impacting my quality of life as I feel horrible all of the time. By evening I am just done and cannot go out. Where can I find treatment for this condition?

June 27, 2016 at 2:29 PM

Hi Clarisse:

There is no specific treatment for MES. You just cannot MAKE it go away, but you can do a number of things that tend to let in fade into the background so it doesn’t bother you near as much. They are outlined near the end of the above article.

However, one of the important things is to not become emotionally involved with your MES. This just makes things worse. You need to ignore your MES sounds as much as possible by focusing on the loves of your life, not the MES sounds.

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March 14, 2020 at 8:00 AM

I’ve had MES for about a year – I play melodies on my guitars – over 300 to be exact – if I don’t play everyday, a song will be on my mind until I play it

March 14, 2020 at 8:40 AM

Having a song running through your mind isn’t MES. With MES, you seem to hear it through your ears. If it just runs through your mind, its more like an “ear worm”, not MES.

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June 27, 2016 at 7:57 PM

I have had phantom voices or music since I was a teen. I listened to a lot of really loud music so I’m sure my hearing has been affected. My Dad always watched the nightly news at 11 pm. I would be trying to sleep and I would flounce out to the living room and say it was too loud. I do the same thing with my hubby now too. I have often had upsetting noises that I’m not really hearing. I’ll go searching through the house trying to pinpoint the noise. I had heard something about this phenomenon a few years ago and was glad I wasn’t the only one. Reading this article has confirmed I’m not crazy and that I can deal with it. Thank you.

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June 29, 2016 at 3:23 PM

I’m not sure whether I fall into this category or not. I’ve listened to phantom radio stations my whole life. To me they are a comfort as I lay in bed at night trying to go to sleep (I’m an insomniac). Music is always different, polka one night, rock and roll the next night, talk radio the next night, country & western the next. I have always had sensitive ears and can pass an auditory test while sitting on the opposite side of the room, without the headphones, while someone else is being tested. It’s been proved several times. I can’t stay in a room with loud music as high pitched noise physically hurts my ears and I have to either leave or cover my ears and open my mouth to somewhat equalize the pressure. Would I fall into the MES category?

June 30, 2016 at 7:58 AM

I don’t think you fall into the typical MES category, but I include hearing such sounds in MES. What I think you are experiencing is a subset of MES called audio pareidolia where you actually hear some faint constant background sound and your brain turns it into music.

You can read more about this phenomenon in my article on it at

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July 28, 2016 at 7:47 PM

Hi All, 3 days I’m hearing soft music playing from somewhere in or near my house, I dismissed at the time. The following day I hear it again went searching for the source, only notice the volume level changed and what was playing changed. Not to mention voices and other sounds.

When I did a search I found this info.

How can it be disabled it? I didn’t ask for this. Don’t get me wrong I can understand the benefits to certain types of soft background paying; now it interferes with them of my choosing or even watching TV.

This morning’s shower felt like was in an elevator, put a load of cloths in the washers it was John Wayne and something near the kitchen sounds like water…LOL

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

August 5, 2016 at 8:13 AM

If you read this article, you already know the best ways to deal with your MES. You just need to put them into practice. Unfortunately, at this point I don’t know of any guaranteed way to stop this phantom music. Thus you can only try the various suggestions and see if they help.

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August 1, 2016 at 9:33 AM

abut a week ago i wa placed on antibiotics for a mild infection , i have completed them now , but this onset of hearing choirs singing started a week ago , no one can hear the music but me, coming from a house newly built at the rear of my house, but they don’t live in this new house yet, i am hard of hearing 80 years old yesterday , am on quite a few cardiac prescriptions, but have been on those for some time , the only new meds was an atibiotic,this had been going for 8 days now, mostly a patriotic choir singing or a religeous song,. over and over 24/7 , im finding it hard to seep as this music repeats itself with 6 different songs repetitiavley , i live alone , and do not socialise much , have few to talk to throughout the day an night , i have been a little over anxious for some time over a sons problems i had a small bout of ringing in my ears for a few weeks before this music commenced , it sounds similar to what you wrote about , it is most annoying when im trying to go to sleep at night , i am going to try and relax before bed after reading your article here, and push it out of my mind if i can…. it is enjoyable music but the repetitiveness of it is the most annoying , i do hope it goes away .

August 1, 2016 at 12:21 PM

The antibiotic may have brought on your phantom music, or it may have happened coincidentally at the same time.

When you have nice phantom music, it’s a shame it’s so repetitive. Otherwise you could really enjoy it.

You might try listening to some real music via a bedside radio, MP3 player, etc and see if that helps you get to sleep in spite of the phantom choir.

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August 9, 2016 at 9:27 PM

Thank you! First, your article made me realize I should get a hearing test. At 50 (and a lifelong T1 diabetic ) I’ve noticed I have more trouble hearing people, especially when there is background noise. Second, the start of my MES coincides vaguely with my husband wanting the TV off in the evenings.And given that we have the ACs on practically full time, I no longer hear the trains, sirens, or normal city sounds ( Since my MES also coincides with the neighbors son moving in, I thought it was Jason’s music – until I went outside! ) Third, I laughed out loud when you finally mentioned the myth of dental work channeling radio stations, as that HAD seemed my last hope for a sane explanation, prior to reading this. And last, is it possible that there is a discrepancy under the section of TRIGGERS? Or at least, should sudden lack of noise be considered a trigger since lack of auditory stimulation is listed as the first possible cause of MES?

August 10, 2016 at 7:03 AM

The last point (No. 6) under triggers is hearing loss. I thought that would cover lack of sound, or am I not understanding what you are getting at?

In your case, it seems that several factors all came together and resulted in your MES.

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August 19, 2016 at 8:30 PM

I appreciate this article. I’m young, in my 20s, but I hear my roommates talking (never full sentences… it sounds like they started to say something and changed their mind, or tried to get my attention) as well as music which usually seems to come from specific parts of the house which are out of sight. Funny enough, the music is usually some kind of classic rock or pop, occasionally orchestral but not usually. I was starting to worry that this was stage one of something serious, but I can live with MES. I don’t go out much now that I live in this town, there’s been a lot of anxiety-inducing stuff going on, and it usually happens when I’m sitting in a quiet room with only a fan going. It’s good to know that I’m not going crazy, I just need to get a life and calm down. And turn off the fan, haha.

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August 21, 2016 at 7:17 PM

My mam thinks she’s going mad. She keeps hearing Ave maria over and over again She’s nearly 82 and has hearing loss. She won’t except that she’s not going mad. How do I help her??

August 21, 2016 at 9:29 PM

Probably the best thing to do is read her, or have her read, my article on MES several times until it finally gets through to her that this is a common condition among elderly people and has nothing whatsoever to do with mental illness.

The hardest people to help are those that refuse to accept that these sounds are indeed phantom and not real.

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September 20, 2016 at 1:14 AM

Hi Dr. Bauman, Thank you so very much for this article information. I have mental illness issues–anxiety, depression, and Borderline personality disorder (Yippee). I thought I was having psychiatric hallucination and was scared to tell anyone. I’m 42, live alone, sleep with fan on, and have ringing in my ears too. And most importantly, I know it’s not real sound (highly suspected anyway). So, how do I go about being diagnosed with MES? Who do I talked to first? Or do you believe MES is something a person can diagnose on their own? Thanks again, I’m so relieved to know I’m not more crazy then I already am.

September 30, 2016 at 7:48 PM

Since MES is not in the doctors book of medical conditions, they typically won’t diagnose you with MES.

As I pointed out in the article, if the sounds you hear are not personal in nature, but totally impersonal such as a you’d hear on a radio or TV show or when attending a musical or opera or orchestral production, then you almost certainly have MES.

It’s easy to test whether the sounds are real or phantom–just put the pillow over your ears and if the sounds are just as loud, they’re phantom. Real sounds would be blocked out or be much softer.

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September 25, 2016 at 1:27 PM

Dr. Neil: I am so glad I came across your article on MES. A few years ago, while my children and I were visiting my former mother-in-law, she told us that for some time she had been hearing many of the old hymns throughout the day, but that no one else seemed to be able to hear it. She was very happy about it, enjoying it thoroughly as she has severe hearing loss. I now know that she has MES. For myself, I have had several episodes of MES through the years but not on a regular basis, and at this point I am not too concerned about it. I came across your article while Googling about another “sound”. I keep having episodes where I hear/feel an explosive whooshing sensation in my ears and head, usually four in very rapid concession. Just moving my eyes or my head will make it occur; it does not usually occur while holding my head and eyes still. I’ve consulted my PCP about this and he seems to think it is caused by sinus problems. But it is driving me bonkers!! Thanks so much for any insights you might be able to give.

September 25, 2016 at 7:47 PM

Apart from your MES, you have an interesting form of somatosensory tinnitus called Gaze-evoked tinnitus where just moving your eyes side to side or up and down can cause tinnitus sounds. This is the result of “cross modal plasticity” where visual signals get crossed with auditory signals. This can happen when your classical (auditory nerve) and non-classical (other sensory nerves) end up in your dorsal cochlear nucleus in your brain where certain neurons are multi-tasking and send the wrong signals to the wrong places.

I doubt your sinuses have anything to do with it (but I could be wrong). More likely it is the result of tight muscles in your upper neck and face that are causing this.

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September 26, 2016 at 3:19 PM

Hi Neil, After 5 years of being together my partner and myself had a conversation today regarding hearing music (like a radio). Hence the reason I found this site. For about 8 years now I have heard music while in bed, and she has heard it for about 10 years. Prior to us getting together she lived in a different part of the country to me. The odd thing is we both used to hear rock music and talking as if we could hear DJs. The odder thing is we now both hear classical music. Due to our conversation today, we discovered this. For the last 8 years I have slept with a fan on next to the bed. She previously did not. She asked her mother today who also said she hears music. Many years ago I used to attend a social club and often would hear radio coming from the speakers, despite them not being connected to any device that was switched on. Do you not think there could simply be a connection between electrical appliances picking up the radio waves. As previously stated people with hearing aids etc. have heard things. Perhaps likened to the old crystal diode radio’s. Your input would be of great interest.

September 30, 2016 at 5:06 PM

The first thing you want to determine is whether the sounds you “hear” are real, phantom (Musical Ear Syndrome) or are illusions (Audio Pareidolia). When you hear the “radio” while in bed if you cover your ears with a pillow do you still hear the “radio” just as loud. If so, you have MES.

If not then it is a real sound, or an illusion. If you turn off all fans and anything you hear that makes a faint constant background sound and the “radio” goes away, then you have audio pareidolia. (See my article on this subject at

If it is a real sound, then you should be able to track it down to its source as the volume will increase the closer you get to the source.

I think it is possible that appliances can pick up radio waves (and supposedly convert them to sound waves), but I think this is MOST unlikely. If that were the case with you, then you’d only hear the “radio” in one place–not in various locations.

I really think you have either MES or audio pareidolia.

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October 16, 2016 at 5:10 PM

this “sounds” a lot like what my 92 yr old mother is experiencing…can you please send a hard copy?

October 17, 2016 at 7:08 AM

Just print out my article from the website and give it to her. That’s what I’d have to do. We don’t have separate hard copies.

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October 28, 2016 at 3:21 PM

Hello, I am so grateful to have found your article. My 95 yr old mother tells me she has been hearing Irish music playing over and over and sometimes it seems like it is piped into her room. She does wear hearing aids during the day but hears the music then too. She lives alone in elderly housing with 4 apts. now is starting to get upset with neighbors she thinks are playing loud music. I will print this article and hope I can explain MES to her, it won’t be easy. Thank you

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November 8, 2016 at 6:42 PM

The music I hear always sounds like fast paced melodies, such as video games or action movies. I personally think it is my brain confused when I am in a quiet setting only because in today’s world quiet is not the norm. We always have sound, from phones and YouTube to video games and earbuds playing music, music in the car. It is like my brain takes all of the simple sounds in my quiet house as I take a bath/shower or lay down for bed or come home before anyone else, and then it makes sense of them by creating music. It can be calming or beautiful; I wish I knew how to write it down like Mozart and make my fortune. But really, I do think it is my brain not knowing how to function in a quiet space because our world is so full of noise.

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November 13, 2016 at 6:54 AM

I live above a 75 year old woman who has started accusing me of playing Silent Night when she goes to bed at 10 o’clock. She comes to my door demanding I turn off the music because she can’t sleep. Last night things came to a head when at 3.05am the police turned up at my door, called by her and even though I knew I was sleeping and not playing music, I felt so awful being accused of something I know I’m not doing. That’s why this morning I Google searched and found your article and felt such relief to have found an answer. My problem now is how to get my neighbour to realise the music is in her own ears as she’s not very approachable. And I’m the one who has very bad depression and anxiety. Thanks for your time.

November 13, 2016 at 9:47 AM

Don’t get upset over this lady’s actions. You are not to blame in the least–even though she thinks so.

Does she have a adult child you can talk with? If you give the adult child a copy of my article for him/her to read and then go over it with the mother, maybe she will accept it from them. She already doesn’t like you because she blames you for being inconsiderate and playing this loud music all night. Thus, she may not be willing to read my article if you gave it to her, but you could still try.

You might also try pushing the article anonymously under her door for her to read. Maybe she will read it and maybe not.

If she calls the police on you again, have a copy ready to hand them to read so the police know what she is experiencing and can act accordingly and leave you alone in the future.

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November 14, 2016 at 8:12 AM

Finally, an answer to a worrisome question my brother and I had for our 85 year mother. She has been complaining to us that she hears the neighbors playing music over and over and over. Day and night. We talked to the neighbors and of course they said no one plays any music out loud in the house, certainly not the music my mother says she hears. Patriotic music mostly and some of her favorite older songs that she used to love when she was younger. Just last night while visiting, she said “there! do you hear that? It’s “Please Release Me by Englebert Humperdinck”. My mothers hearing has really gotten bad. She doesn’t like her hearing aids and doesn’t wear them. So, with the TV blaring and the radio playing in the other room and she can barely hear us talking to her sitting in the same room, she thinks she hears this music all the time. I am printing your article to give to her to read and it will ease her mind knowing that she is simply experiencing Musical Ear Syndrome. I can’t wait to share the news with her. She’s been worried that she might be going crazy or worse to her, other people think she is going crazy.

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November 16, 2016 at 12:35 PM

I have this issue where I can take a deep breath and on the exhale i hear it and then when I’m done I feel like I can hear it for a few seconds vividly,or if i make a funny sound with my mouth or even sounds like a pill dropping it’s like my mind recreate the sound for a few seconds like I know it’s not real like I know it’s coming from inside my head but idk what is up with me I’m only 18 I’m not sure if I have hearing loss but I have tinnitus I’m just stressed and don’t know what this could be.i dont know if its just my echoic memory or if im going you think this is mes?

November 17, 2016 at 5:56 AM

Hi Brandon:

I haven’t run across your exact situation before. My first reaction is that this is not MES. Such unwanted memory repetitions are known as earworms–what you describe as echoic memory. I think this is a good term by the way–and is a more likely explanation. And no, you are not going crazy.

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November 17, 2016 at 4:25 AM

I got tinnitus 3 weeks ago from a loud club, and have been hearing “sirens in the distance” for 1,5 week. This is so annoying… I can live with the T, but the sirens are just horrible. Is this MES?

November 17, 2016 at 5:46 AM

Tinnitus has many sounds. Tinnitus may be a ringing, roaring, rushing, rumbling, blowing, beating, banging, buzzing, clicking, chirping, clanging, drumming, fluttering, hissing, humming, pulsating, sizzling, whooshing, whistling or dreadful shrieking noise in our ears. To some people, tinnitus sounds like crickets chirping, birds twittering, bees humming, clocks ticking, water rushing, machines clanking, bells ringing, owls hooting, jet engines roaring, glass breaking, radio static or chain saws running.

I think your sirens would fall more under the above tinnitus sounds rather than MES. Probably, I should add sirens to the above tinnitus sounds.

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November 27, 2016 at 10:33 PM

I’m thrilled to read about MES. I wasn’t exactly worried about hearing old hymns that sounded far enough away that I could barely understand the words. I wear hearing aids, am 70 years old, formerly had tinnitus, take lots of meds, and have had several falls. It doesn’t keep me from sleeping. I’ll talk to my doc the next time I have a visit. Thanks.

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January 4, 2017 at 12:48 AM

Hi, I am a 26 year old female that came across this article while googling possible causes for the sounds that I hear. I have been experiencing them for about a year and I was beginning to think I was going crazy and was too afraid to even tell my husband! I hear the phantom noises nearly every night when I lay down. Sometimes it sounds like a radio station broadcaster. It’s always a man that has a very distinct voice, almost like a baseball announcer from the 40s. I can’t make out what he says though. Other times it is simply music, that I have actually learned to enjoy. Also a little over a year ago I started experiencing random dizzy spells. They come a few at a time and only last a few seconds each. I thought it was due to my new vegetarian diet, so I quit that but they never stopped. I wonder if they are linked in some way?

January 8, 2017 at 5:04 PM

Hi Bethany:

The phantom sounds you are hearing are definitely the kinds of things you hear when you have Musical Ear Syndrome.

Dizziness and MES are not linked as far as I know. What changed in your life/lifestyle a year ago that may have led to your dizzy spells? Can you think of anything?

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January 5, 2017 at 10:21 PM

Hi Dr, I have had similar experiences as these folks. This has been happening within the last three years. I am 32 years old, and first heard music from a small fan that was given to me by an elderly woman. After a few days of having the fan, I heard music coming from it. Beautiful orchestra music. I thought I was hearing things, until the second time when I grabbed my family member to hear. Sure enough, they heard the music, and were freaked out and told me to turn off the fan. I gave it to goodwill. The second time I heard music was one day in the midafternoon. I was getting ready for work and usually turn on the vent fan in the restroom. That day, I heard music from from the 40s, coming from the vent fan. I stood on the toilet and sure enough, the music was in the vent. I turned off the vent, and the music stopped. I turned on the vent right away, and the music was still playing. I have heard the restroom vent fan music several times and learned to enjoy the music, as it is from the 40s, and I rarely listen to that type in reality. The third thing I have heard a radio brodcaster voice from another time, the 40s coming from my fish tank cleaner. I was able to make out the words, “congratulations”, and “21.” I have heard different shows several times after this from the fish tank, but it seems to be the same radio announcer. I do not hear the vent music anymore. The fish tank announcer from time to time, but it is all muffled. I can hear the tone, but not make out words. One last thing thats has recently been happening. I can hear peoples’ stresses in my head as tones and high pitches depending on intensity of their pain, or stress. If it is a high stress or pain, I can also feel that in my head as an electrical pain. If I am in close range to the person, my electrical pain in the head subsides when I look at the person, and or talk to them. The intensity decreases or subsides. Other than all this, I am healthy.

January 8, 2017 at 4:48 PM

Hi Jennifer:

The fans you hear the music from are fooling your brain. Rather than MES, what you really have is audio pareidolia–where your brain takes a background sound and tries to make sense of it. See my article on this subject at

Hearing people’s stresses in your head is another thing entirely. I’m no expert on this, but some people feel other people’s auras in one way or another. Seems you have this “gift”.

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January 14, 2017 at 4:09 AM

Hi about a year ago I woke up from my sleep to hear beautiful church music and it was a men’s choir music. I looked out Windows etc to see where it came from and it stopped. Came back into bed and continued until I fell back asleep. I later found that in the space of a week my mother and my grandmother also heard the music. We do not live close nor had communicated our experiences until after we had all heard it. Why would this be?

January 14, 2017 at 7:23 AM

Two questions that come to mind are: 1. Did you all hear the music at exactly the same time? 2. Did you all hear exactly the same music?

If so, that is one thing. If not, then I don’t see how they are related. Millions of people hear phantom music from time to time so it would not be unrealistic that all three of you happened to hear phantom music (Musical Ear Syndrome).

However, if all three of you heard exactly the same music at exactly the same time, then I would not consider this to be coincidental. Nor would it likely be Musical Ear Syndrome.

Tell me more.

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February 1, 2017 at 1:25 AM

HI, thanks for the article. I just experienced this for the first time. I’m fifty. I quite enjoy it actually. I have the flu and a high fever. Do you think that could be the cause? My ears do feel stuffy.

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February 21, 2017 at 2:22 PM

I had some ringing in my ears for a few months and was catching myself trying to make sense of this outside music coming from two loud music venues now operating near my home. I’ve played piano since 3. I have perfect pitch. For the last month, I’ve head several songs that I hear. It started with a brass band version of Battle Hymn of the Republic and I know get several other but can usually manipulate them into change when they get to me. I can name the key, the notes, the instruments now and when I’ve had lucid dreams it enters. If i concentrate on another activity or have actual music playing my brain will focus on that but any light activities will have something looping constantly now. I just turned 61 in November and I’m not aware of any hearing loss but I was being constantly driving crazy by this outside music coming from the bars because my brain kept trying to make sense of what the tune was and it reminded me of when you sight matrixs an recognizable object when there’s simply shadows. I’m not sure if it’s going to go away or what I should do with it. It’s quite tiring trying having some kind of music running. The only thing that makes it tolerable is it’s usually songs I’ve liked in the past and I can change it up but once I change it up it sticks until I purposefully change it up again.

February 22, 2017 at 10:40 PM

Thank you for this informative and reassuring article. I’ve been experiencing MES for the past several years. Once I confirmed that no one in my family was hearing the music, I knew it wasn’t “real” and must somehow be related to my hearing loss. My hearing loss was diagnosed about 5 years ago. I am certain, as is my ENT, that my hearing loss is caused by ototoxic antibiotics. I had one of those “medical mystery” situations 7 yrs ago. Developed fairly sudden, severe knee pain which was bad enough that I had ER visits 2 days in a row, despite that ER copay! No injury preceded the onset of pain. MRI essentially negative. Pain worsened, I saw a rheumatologist & they were thinking it was some sort of acute inflammatory arthritis (much arthritis in my family hx). Rx’d methotrexate, then prednisone. Onset of all this occurred at Halloween & by Thanksgiving I could no longer bear weight on my L leg at all. Multiple MRIs did not identify a cause until a very skilled radiologist caught a glimpse of the end of my femur, where something was VERY wrong-bone marrow edema, cortical disruption of bone, etc. I was taken to OR for a bone biopsy, thinking it was osteosarcoma. Good news was no cancer, bad news was severe osteomyelitis, organism ID’d as MRSA. What followed was 4 surgeries in a year, 18 months of antibiotics of many variety (I’m going to email the list to you separately, I’d like your opinion). The antibiotics caused my hearing loss and in my 40s I needed hearing aids. It’s ridiculous that they aren’t covered by insurance, even when hearing loss had medical cause, not age related. Similar to the OR RN who posted earlier, hearing loss has a huge impact on my job. I am a ob/gyn telephone advice RN. 90% of my job is listening to/talking to women. My hearing loss, in large part, falls right at the level of women’s voices. I’m still working but it is challenging at times. It would be difficult for me to go back to acute care nursing as I cannot hear through my stethoscope very well. I’ve had tinnitus for years, even before the illness. I thought everyone had background noise like that in their ears! I enjoy my MES! It is more prominent when I’m stressed. Typically I hear classical orchestra music, big band tunes and some classic rock (Led Zeppelin, Beatles). I also hear baseball games being called on the “radio”. Such an interesting phenomenon. I’m happy to have your article. I wasn’t frightened by MES but I’m looking forward to giving the article to my family so they can understand what I’m going through. Thanks again.

February 23, 2017 at 1:04 PM

Almost all, if not all, antibiotics are ototoxic, so I’m not surprised you lost hearing from taking them–especially since you took them for 18 months. Junt 10 days of antibiotics is enough to damage your ears, depending on the drug.

Feel free to email me privately with your list of drugs if you want to.

Incidentally, colloidal silver kills MRSA and it is not ototoxic either. You’d think doctors would know this.

Hearing on the phone can be challenging, but there are ways to help yourself. In my case, I don’t wear my hearing aids when on the phone. Instead, I use an amplified phone. But my phone wide open still doesn’t have enough volume for me, so I added a second amplifier in series and it is almost maxed out too. In addition I wear a binuaral headset so both ears can hear. This really help in understanding. And to top it all off, I use a captioned phone so I can read what the person says. (It’s not perfect), but it catches some of the key words I miss hearing.

I find that tone is critical to understanding speech–so you want a phone, or external amplifier that has a tone control. Furthermore, most phones have digital controls so typically only have 4-step tones. This is not enough for me. If you want a powerful external phone amplifier that has analog (so continuously-variable tone controls) the Speech-Adjust-A-Tone (you can get it at ) really fills the bill. It is actually a six-band equalizer so you can set each band to exactly the level you want to get the clearest speech.

If you cannot hear your stethoscope, there are amplified stethoscopes available. If you are interested, I have access to several of these–just let me know if you are interested.

I’m glad you enjoy your MES (at least for the most part). This makes it ever so much easier to deal with. And as you have found, stress can bring it on or make it louder, just like as with tinnitus.

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March 14, 2017 at 8:52 PM

Hi Dr. Bauman,

Thank you for this article!

I live in a really old neighborhood and all of us are on 5 to 20 acres each so can’t hear anything close. I have heard voices and seen things over the past 10 years as has my family (here and at my parents house (who lives two doors down))…chalked it up to supernatural things.

Three nights ago while trying to go to sleep I asked my husband if he heard that music? He said no…I told him the song then it changed into a TV show then back to music which was like a 1930’s jazz song. I even heard *CBS sportscasters broadcasting a show in Detroit* (I don’t watch sports). And heard helicoptors all night.

Two nights ago was a game show, music and a few more TV shows (with canned laughter)…..I told my husband I think I am going insane!

Last night was music, TV shows and a movie (used the vocal of the movie to make the show my own in my mind). This morning I woke up hearing a famous song ….

I can hear it all and know it is in my head…I have other symptoms (at night) also but they all seem to link back to ears. I also had a head trama almost 2 yrs ago….everything is on the left side of me.

I was let go from work last week so the anxiety/stress could be part of it.

Your article was very informative.

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March 15, 2017 at 12:01 AM

Wonderful insights & reassurance! My constant tinnitus for years has been a generator. Layered over it bees started buzzing. Over the years other sounds come and go. I started wearing hearing aids at the end of my 50’s; in the 15+ years since, hearing loss steadily increases. A couple of years ago an MRI identified 2 benign brain tumors plus acoustic neuroma at left ear which is shutting down hearing beyond what an aid can compensate for. Additionally hyperacusis has piled on, making me very sensitive to all sorts of sounds…and…somehow connected to my Essential Tremors that were diagnosed at about the same time, so that a salad bag or newspaper crackling (or lots of other things!) can set off tremors. Yes – that has cut back on my always active social life. Apparently to make up for that, I sometimes get a men’s choir or Am radio stations just outside my window! You mentioned the importance of tone to understanding speech. I struggle every day to understand my husband, who has a soft almost guttural quality to his voice. I have a CapCall phone that helps, often with humorous MISunderstanding in translations. How does one get “tone control” on a phone? Thanks!!

March 15, 2017 at 9:42 AM

On your CapTel phone, you set the tone by pressing the tone button in the bottom left corner if you have the 2400i model. Previous models had different ways. I set up the custom tone as the three defaults–high, medium and low–are not right for me. It’s not perfect, but it is better than nothing.

If you want to get almost infinitely variable tone so you can set it precisely, the speech adjust-a-tone is the gizmo you need. Not only does it have LOTS of gain, you have 6 equalizer sliders to adjust the tone by six frequencies. You can see/get this gizmo at

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March 16, 2017 at 4:11 AM

Thank you for this article, which I came across about 5am this morning, after I’d tried to turn the house upside down, trying to locate the source of what I thought was a radio. When I realised the sound was following me I tried to seek a logical explanation, hence coming across your article. Initially I was quite freaked out as it’s never happened to me before but I calmed down when I realised there was a proper explanation. Recently I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia and was wondering if you’d come across a link there? My nervous system is playing up and the moment as a result. Thank you. Katrina

March 20, 2017 at 7:24 AM

Hi Katrina:

A lot of people have searched for that “phantom radio” when they first experience MES.

I can’t say that I’ve come across a specific link between fibromyalgia and MES. However, your MES may be the result of the stress you are under from the conditions you are facing. Stress, anxiety and depression can all be factors.

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March 31, 2017 at 1:02 PM

I don’t consider it a problem the way I do with my tinnitus. Musical ear is relatively new for me. I’m 67 yrs old and have had tinnitus since my teens. It’s constant, multi-toned and multi-directional. High and low tones of at least 3. My first real experience with musical ear was very recent and consisted of 2 or 3 male voices singing as a choir accompanied by at least 3 chords. It was actually very pleasant. I do have a hearing loss that is troublesome in social settings because of conversation challenges.

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April 5, 2017 at 4:37 PM

I have never really heard of this until today. My wife (48) was very sick with a virus a couple of days ago. She threw up for about 20 straight hours. She became dehydrated. Yesterday she felt better and started eating and drinking normal. Last night she told me she kept hearing a radio on in the house. My hearing is terrible, especially high pitch. i searched the entire house and yard. Unplugged everything. She described the music, told me the station ID, etc. Incredibly real. I put on some game ears, amplified headphones for listening during hunting. You can hear a pin drop from across the room. Nothing. She said she could hear the music better without the game ears. She also said earplugs did not help.

Finally, around 2am we determined it was a neighbors barn. Today we went over there, and she could still hear the music, but no one else can. I came across this website researching this. We tried to tune a radio to the station she was hearing. Couldn’t get a match. She is stuck on country and some xmas songs. But she swears she hears a DJ.

I am hoping this is somehow related to her short illness and dehydration. I will talk to her more about it tonight and show her information on MES. Glad to know we aren’t alone!

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April 6, 2017 at 1:42 PM

I’m 55, not hard of hearing, but do have tinnitus. I am beyond thankful for this article. My daughter who is also does *not* have hearing loss found it when she was trying to figure out her phantom sounds.

I shall relax and enjoy my nonexistent radio, and stop waking up my poor husband to ask him if he hears the music. 🙂

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April 27, 2017 at 11:04 AM

I experienced this last night and it unnerved me enough that I googled around and found your website.

I am 56 and not hard of hearing, not on any medication, no trauma, etc. I was sleeping with the window open and the wind was blowing pretty hard. I live on 37 acres and it is very quiet here normally (except for all the sounds of nature).

At 1:22 am I woke up to hear the wind and also the singing of women’s voices in very tight, close harmony. They weren’t singing words, but more like “ah” sounds. It was absolutely beautiful. It seemed to be coming from the woods.

To make sure I was fully awake I turned on my bedside light and went to the bathroom then returned to bed. The voices were still singing. It went on for another few minutes then stopped.

I have read the book “The Afterlife of Billy Fingers” and remembered there being a chapter where he talks about the music you hear in the afterlife that is also present while you are alive, but very few people get to hear it. He mentions the composer Sibelius and a song call “The Swan of Tuonela.” I awoke early and grabbed my Kindle and went through every page of the book until I found that information (I had forgotten the composer and the song he mentions). I found the piece on YouTube and yes, it was very similar to what I heard, although mine was 100% human voices with no musical instruments.

I feel there are things that cannot always be explained scientifically and I will leave it at that~~I appreciate your website and that you are sharing the comments from other people! Thank you!

April 29, 2017 at 7:02 AM

I agree that there are things that cannot be explained scientifically, and one of those things is what happens after death. However, assuming that you are hearing things from the afterlife based on a book that is totally metaphysical, rather than one based on fact, doesn’t make it true.

There is a perfectly logical and natural reason for hearing what you heard based on what you said about the wind blowing steadily. Since you have normal hearing, you probably don’t have Musical Ear Syndrome. Rather, I suspect you were experiencing a form of audio pareidolia. You can read more about this fascinating condition in my article on the subject at

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May 7, 2017 at 12:44 AM

I hear sounds like symphonies or chants or sound like gypsy tones or shaman sounds or Chinese (nothing religious) within recordings of any white noise or any water fall or any oscillating equipment. even high pitch electric noise since January 2017. My theory on this phenomena is that it’s related to the increase in earth frequency that is affecting my DNA by creating synapses… I also believe that it is related to metaphysical rather than any medical abnormality in brain as you describe in this article. Since than I decided to speak about metaphysical reality to few of my patients who have lived metaphysical events. I work in medical field. I have noticed patients are going through metaphysical events just like me. As a medical professional, I had to to think out side of box of medical school teaching.

June 12, 2017 at 7:19 AM

Hi Shaheen:

It’s fine to think outside the box, but first check out what is in the box to make sure you are not going off on a wild tangent. What you have explained you hear (and have normal hearing and are younger) can be fully explained as audio pareidolia. Read my article on this subject at . As I see it, there is no metaphysical involvement in what you are hearing.

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May 20, 2017 at 5:02 PM

Hallelujah! You have put my mind at ease, I’m 90 with hearing difficulty, and was about to go over and attack my next door neighbor for playing his damned TV loudly at 2 in the morning – night after night.

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May 26, 2017 at 4:45 PM

Wow, “ears opened”. I was definitely hitting the depressed, anxiety parts, but am younger and good hearing. But part #4 about background noise, and the guy writing about hearing it when fans came on…I always sleep with a fan on, and was hearing the music while reading this and look up to see the fan on. I got up and turned it off. I couldn’t believe it, immediately stopped. Wow, several tests confirmed. Thanks for the great read and research!

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June 28, 2017 at 2:13 PM

I experienced MES 6 months ago. I read your articles and your book too. I am in my forties and have had noise induced tinnitus for 12 years. My hearing is normal. At a concert my tinnitus got worse even though wearing earplugs. Since I was already stressed from work It all got too much. I could not sleep from both anxiety and loud tinnitus, and finally I reported sick from work. I took sleeping pills, and by then I started hearing other sounds than tinnitus, when lying in my bed. It was small clips of music, I had heard during the day, or the sound of our ventilation, and then settled on birds chirping. I started hearing it sometimes during the day too. It made me very anxious, but reading your book at least gave my a rational explanation, and guidelines and hope, that it might end. As the tinnitus slowly reduced in volume, my sleeping got better, I started running 12 km a day, I got back to work and my boss was understanding, I stopped taking sleeping pills, and MES disappeared. It was a textbook example according to your book, of what might induce MES, and why it can go away, when those factors are no longer present. Spooky and I am glad it is over.

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July 23, 2017 at 7:46 AM

Thank you so much for explaining our phantom noises . we thought our house was haunted we will all sleep easier now.

July 24, 2017 at 6:17 AM

Glad to help you. When you say “we”, do you mean that more than one person in the house heard these Musical Ear Syndrome sounds? It is possible that two hard of hearing people could hear similar sounds, but more likely in my opinion would be that audio pareidolia kicked in–in people with normal hearing. Probably they were hearing fan sounds that their brains converted to other sounds that you all heard.

If you haven’t already, read my article about audio pareidolia at

Either way, no haunted house so rest easy.

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August 11, 2017 at 9:28 PM

When I was a child, I had musical ear syndrome real bad. I would hear radio-type noises, muffled singing and talking, without any understandable words. It seemed that sometimes when I went to someplace where there was a lot of people – like a fair – the background noise would get stuck in my ears and I would continue to hear it when I got home.

One time when I was 8, I did hear distinct voices – a man and a woman – talking about me. I believe this was a true audio hallucination, as I definitely heard them say my name and knew they were saying bad things about me, even though I couldn’t understand all the words. This was a very frightening experience, and luckily it was the only time I ever experienced something like this.

I rarely hear the phantom radio-type noises, but occasionally I still do. Usually it happens when I’m feeling very mellow and relaxed. I also have tinnitus, but I usually don’t notice the ringing unless I am somewhere super quiet.

I actually experienced the non-existent radio phenomenon just now – that’s how I found this site. I just came back from the pool and there is still water in my ears. That probably triggered the musical ear.

As a child, I had a lot of ear infections. A few years ago, I had my hearing tested and they said I had very mild high frequency hearing loss, which was probably the cause of my tinnitus.

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August 19, 2017 at 4:08 AM

Dr Bauman, Thank you! I am a 62 year old medical doctor and I thought I was going crazy, I was afraid to even Google this, I hear marching bands and military bands and oom pah pah bands, I found myself singing along and that really scared me, at least it’s not Led Zeppelin.

September 5, 2017 at 8:12 AM

Sing along with the music if you like it. You are not crazy. You’re just “one of us”.

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August 30, 2017 at 11:02 PM

Hello, I have had tinnitus for many years and exploding head syndrome, I am now 55 and profoundly deaf in both ears. I never before today experienced MES, I went to my ENT and she cleaned some hardened wax out of my right ear and hit something and boy it hurt , and since then I can music in that ear , it sounds like someone is tuning a am radio and can’t seem to find a channel, boy I wish would, do you have any suggestions

August 31, 2017 at 7:34 AM

Explain more about “hit something”. If the wax was attached to your eardrum and she pulled it off, your eardrum would snap back. The experience would be the same as if you had heard a sudden very loud sound and could instantly result in tinnitus.

To me, trying to tune an AM radio between stations would produce hissing, white noise sounds, not musical sounds. Thus I think you are experiencing tinnitus. Personally, I’d give it a few days and see whether this noise quietens down. In the meantime, ignore it as much as possible and focus on other things so it can begin to fade into the background.

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August 31, 2017 at 10:57 PM

I developed MES about a month ago. I have had tinnitus for 50 years and am hearing impaired, but I am not sound-deprived. Mine started as a series of 3-5 notes being played on a continuous loop 24/7. After a few days they changed onto full songs being played by an oechestra: The National Anthem, 3 Blind Mice, Auld Lang Syne, In the Garden, and The first Noel. Those songs played continuously, day and night. I could pick out trumpets, woodwinds, etc. After a couple days of listening to them, I decided to try an experiment–think of another song in my head and see if it would change to that song. It did! I now have a repertoire of over 50 songs and can usually change the one playing at will. It was kind of enjoyable.

Today I awoke and there was a series of 2 notes playing over and over, above the songs also playing. So annoying. Then this evening, a pipe was added, playing the most beautiful music, like celtic music. Now I have all 4 things going on at once–tinnitus,the orchestra playing songs, the repeated 2 notes, and the pipe music. Help!

September 5, 2017 at 7:10 AM

How lucky can a girl get? Two kinds of good music, 2 notes and tinnitus all at the same time.

Your case is unusual. I know people that hear a number of different tinnitus sounds at the same time, but I don’t think I’ve run across someone that hears multiple MES sounds at the same time. It’s not unusual to hear both tinnitus and MES at the same time.

Do you have any idea what brought on your MES? New medications? Undue anxiety, depression or stress? Changes in lifestyle? Etc.

I wish I knew the solution to making it all go away–except for the beautiful Celtic music .

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September 20, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Hi. My name is Christian and I live in Colombia.

I went to a Vipassana 10 day meditation retreat on the 6th of this month. Starting on the morning of the third day of the retreat, after a particularly painful one hour meditation session, I started to hear constant music on my head. For a time I didn’t pay much attention to it but, as days passed, I started to get worried. I had good and bad days but I managed to finnish the course with most of my sanity intact. Right now, however, it’s starting to take a toll on me.

I have lost my joy and my calm. I’m constantly drowning in anguish and I’m very afraid. I’m starting to lose my appetite. I have been having suicidal thoughts. There’s this pain in my chest that almost never goes away.

I’m really worried. I have a father, a mother and a brother who all adore and need me and I don’t want to leave them. I need some help. I want to be normal again. I want to be able to enjoy my life again.

¿What can I do? Please help.

October 4, 2017 at 1:39 PM

Hi Christian:

I’m wondering if all the meditation and silence (not speaking) caused your brain to crave more auditory sounds and thus it switched to manufacturing its own sounds. I would have expected the phantom sounds to go away once you resumed normal life again.

Exactly what are you hearing? What kinds of music? Is this music repetitive or flowing or what?

You say you have lost all your joy and calm and are drowning in anguish and are very afraid, etc., etc. Is this all from the phantom music, or is it a result of the meditation program? You have suicidal thoughts and pain in your chest. None of this sounds like MES to me. I think this is the result of the meditation program.

I need to know more if I am to be able to help you.

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October 4, 2017 at 8:57 AM

Is MES a problem that should be taken care of or is it the things causing the MES that need to be “fixed”? I have anxiety and sometimes when I hear the music it’s actually calming, only sometimes to the noises scare/startle me. Do you think that some forms of MES could be to help humans function better? A way to “calm” or ourselves or as stated in the article, “There are a number of things that are thought to cause MES. The primary contender is lack of adequate auditory stimulation. The theory is that when your world becomes too quiet, your brain manufactures its own sounds”, a way to add noise to our quiet lives? Could MES actually be beneficial in some cases?

October 4, 2017 at 12:28 PM

Rarely is there an underlying medical problem that can be fixed. Typically MES is the result of your auditory system not working quite right because of sensorineural hearing loss and there is nothing doctors can do about that–unless your hearing is so bad you need a cochlear implant. That can sometimes fix MES.

Anxious people may have MES more commonly than the general population of hard of hearing people. So keeping your anxiety under control is one thing to keep in mind.

I don’t know whether you can say MES is beneficial, but if you know what it is, and like the music you hear, and it doesn’t repeat endlessly and drive you buggy, then enjoy it. Unfortunately, too many people find it bothers them, and for these it definitely is not beneficial.

I think the trick is to make peace with your MES so it does not bother you, even if it is there, and if you enjoy your MES–so much the better.

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October 8, 2017 at 2:18 AM

Hello! I’m an 18 year old female. I hear metal music playing when the moving fan in my room faces my direction. Could this be MES? I was going nuts! It was the same song, not one I actually know, going on and on and on. The guy wouldn’t stop singing. I couldn’t hear the words but I knew his voice, the guitar, and the drums. I swore it was coming from a phone or something until I inspected everything and noticed the correlation with the fan movements. The music wasn’t bad. But it got annoying after 15 minutes. Eventually I couldn’t hear the guitar or drums, just his voice.

October 8, 2017 at 10:25 AM

What you are experiencing is technically audio pareidolia, but in the past I have lumped it under Musical Ear Syndrome. Read my article on Audio Pareidolia to learn more about what you are really experiencing. The article is at .

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October 30, 2017 at 10:23 PM

Thank you for this article. I think I will send a copy to my doctor, who seems to think all audio hallucinations are psychiatric. However there are two things I do not agree with.

1) Saying deaf people isolate themselves is little like blaming the victims. Yes we do avoid some social situations, but just as often we are excluded by our hearing friends. People say “Oh it doesn’t matter” when you ask them to repeat something. In larger groups, people talk fast, talk over each other, cover their lips or look away even though they know these things make it impossible for a deaf person to follow their conversation. I have yet to find one hotel that has hearing loops in their conference room, or any kind of hearing assistive devices, which makes attending conventions very frustrating.

2) You suggest to “Enrich Your Environment with Real Sounds,” but for me at least the volume of the tinnitus, music and exploding head syndrome (your missed that one) just increases in proportion to the volume of the real sound around me. The tinnitus (and I think all audio hallucinations are just different forms of tinnitus) sometimes gets so loud I cannot understand the person talking directly to me without reading their lips. When it gets too loud, if I am lucky, I can reduce the tinnitus volume a little by removing my CI processor, try to relax, listen to the tinnitus, and think of how amazing our brains are to create all these different interesting sounds.

BTW. Silent Night was also the first song I heard after a sudden hearing loss in the middle of the summer. Drove me crazy until I learned to relax and enjoy the music. The tenor was amazing and ended the song in a way I do not think I ever heard. Unfortunately, after getting a cochlear implant the choir started mumbling, lost its ability to keep in tune, and I have lost the ability to hear real music (it is just noise) and I cannot even remember the tune to “Silent Night” “Happy Birthday,” or anything else. I wonder why Silent Night turns up so often and what tunes would be the most common in other non-Christian cultures.

November 1, 2017 at 8:23 AM

It seems that a lot of doctors think any time you hear phantom sounds you must have a mental condition. This is just not true in the case of Musical Ear Syndrome.

Hard of hearing people do isolate themselves. I’m not saying it’s by choice. Maybe I should be more clear and say hard of hearing people isolate themselves or are isolated by others when they are ignored and can’t understand what is being said. I well know what it is like.

It seems like you have reactive tinnitus. That is where your tinnitus gets louder as the volume of the sound you hear increases. This is not the normal way tinnitus acts.

I do not classify Exploding Head Syndrome as part of Musical Ear Syndrome, but I have written about it elsewhere. Although some people seem to think that Musical Ear Syndrome is a kind of tinnitus and evn call it musical tinnitus, that doesn’t make it true. Yes, they are somewhat related—call them cousins—but they are processed in different ways in your brain. Tinnitus sounds are unmodulated sounds, while Musical Ear Syndrome sounds are modulated sounds.

I’ve not heard of people with cochlear implants having reactive tinnitus before, but you are proof that it does exist. With reactive tinnitus, you have to keep sounds below the level where they react with your tinnitus. this can be a problem as you well know.

I think Silent Night is a common Musical Ear Syndrome song because so many people have heard it in their childhood whether they are Christian or not.

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November 17, 2017 at 5:39 AM

As I have been up all night, I stumbled upon your article. .Thank God! I have suffered for so many years…52 yrs old next week. I have Arnold Chiari Malformation type 1..decompression in 2011 with a 32mm herniation. Do you think this could be the cause for my experience with this? I’m a former Social Worker lol…so, really I’m not crazy! 🙂 But I have heard muffled music or like a news channel in another room off and on most of my life!

November 22, 2017 at 10:06 AM

You haven’t given me enough information so I can determine whether you have Musical Ear Syndrome or a closely related condition called audio pareidolia.

The phantom sounds you are hearing could be either depending on whether they are triggered by a real sound or not.

You can learn more about audio pareidolia at

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November 30, 2017 at 4:10 PM

My mother, 82, has been hearing music for the past few months. None of her medications has changed, however, she briefly tried Aricept for memory loss but had to discontinue because it gave her terrible nightmares. Could this have triggered MES or is it more likely to have come from the hearing loss and anxiety disorder she is experiencing?

December 2, 2017 at 6:19 PM

Hi Roseanne:

Anything is possible, but I think it more likely that your mom’s MES is a result of her age, her hearing loss and her anxiety and probably a few other factors as well. However, Donepezil (Aricept) causes auditory hallucinations in numbers of people, so you may be right in thinking that the Donepezil may be the culprit that triggered her MES. Or the Donepezil could have been one of the factors involved.

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November 30, 2017 at 4:28 PM

Having just learned my brain likes playing it’s own music I am somewhat anxious. That’s a mild word to use for something rather scary. Your article is very informative and I’m glad I stumbled on to it. Thank you for taking away some of the fear factor. I have had tinnitus for several years, a side effect of a medication, and have gotten used to it. The music thing I hope I can overcome. Which might be difficult because I prefer quiet to the noise of TV and radio. But I will figure it out. It is possible a chiropractor could help me. When at age 16 I was in two auto accidents a month and three days apart. When I first began going to physical therapy the therapist told me my skull was not in the right place. It was “back” too far. I checked the list you provided for chiropractors who use the “Blair” technique but none are closer than a two hour plus ferry ride (one way) from where I live here in the PNW. If you have any suggestions for me I’d appreciate hearing them.

December 2, 2017 at 6:26 PM

I now live in the PNW too. The closest Blair chiropractor is an hour south of me in Sedro Wooley. All is not lost however, you can go to any of the upper cervical spine chiropractors. They are ALL trained in getting your atlas and axis properly aligned. They just all use different techniques. If you follow the link in the article to finding upper cervical spine chiropractors in Washington State, you can see who’s closest to you and what technique they use. Then you can try them out and see what happens. Where I used to live, the closest one to me was an hour away. He used the NUCCA technique. I thought he was rather rough compared to a Blair chiropractor, but he did get my head aligned properly. Where my brother lives there are only NUCCA chiropractors around so he goes to one and has had quite good success.

I don’t know that getting your head properly aligned will help your MES, but it should certainly be good for your overall health, so go for it.

November 30, 2017 at 4:38 PM

I forgot to mention, the hearing problems are only in the left ear. The right one is just fine. Something my ENT doctor says is concerning. Or as he put it “you are 72 years old, so are your ears, they should be the same”. The difference is significant.

December 2, 2017 at 6:30 PM

Theoretically, your Dr. is right, your ears should be the same. But in actual fact, lots of times ears are not the same. For example, if you drive with your car window open, eventually you will find that your left ear has a hearing loss, or more of a hearing loss, as compared to your right ear because of all the traffic and road noise it is exposed to.

December 2, 2017 at 11:48 PM

Neil, I am beginning to think MES is triggered by something. I’ve only had this condition about a week to ten days. I went to my PCP, November 15th, because “I think I’m losing the hearing in my left ear”. I did not have MES only tinnitus. After questions regarding why I thought I was losing my hearing, dizziness, being lightheaded, checking my ears, etc., he set up an MRI for me. I am claustrophobic so needed something to help get me through the MRI. I do not recall any “music” (I would have noticed ‘Silent Night, Jingle Bells”) etc. until after the MRI and was headed to the ENT doctor two days later. He used a different term than “MES”, ordered a myriad of blood tests. I have a follow-up appointment on the 13th of this month unless I can get in earlier. I am trying to be positive about this but trying to sleep listening to which ever tune happens to pop up is not conducive to getting better.

December 4, 2017 at 11:51 AM

What was different in the few days before the MES started? Anything that could have triggered the MES? Changes in medications? Excess stress? Depression? or?

I’m curious what name you doctor called it. If you remember, let me know.

December 5, 2017 at 3:20 AM

Hi Neil, A week ago on November 27th, I was given one (1) 5mg diazapam tablet to get me through the previously mentioned MRI. I don’t remember what the term was the doctor used but I have an appointment on the 13th for blood test results so will ask him what he said.

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December 12, 2017 at 9:12 PM

my dad is 88 and has severe hearing loss. He has had hearing problems for as long as I can remember. I have heard him comment that he heard songs and people singing. Now, I have the hearing loss which has been going downhill for the last 10 years. I have heard radio stations talking and songs being sung. I’m so glad I’m not alone in this.

December 17, 2017 at 10:50 AM

You’re certainly not alone. There are thousands upon thousands of people that also hear these kinds of phantom sounds. Welcome to the club!

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December 23, 2017 at 5:10 PM

this doesn’t explain having radio stations after getting one’s ears pierced. that certainly isn’t some hallucination and the broadcasts are live, can be confirmed by tuning in on a radio. i’ve known people who had tht happen after getting fillings until filling stopped being of metal but after ears pierced? Has anyone else had that happen? If so, can it be got round by other than having to have all the ear wires or posts replaces with plastic? its very expensive and hearing radio in one’s head is quite distracting, especially if the local station in NOT to one’s liking.

December 24, 2017 at 12:05 AM

Hi Neil: Here is an update. My ENT says I have “Asymmetric Sensorineural Hearing Loss, worse on the left. Etiology of this remains unclear. This clearly raises the possibilty of retro cochlear disease. There is no evidence of conductive component”. I still believe this was triggered by the MRI and/or the diazapem I had on 11/27/17. I have been to see my rheumatologist too. She suspects it could be autoimmune related seeing as I have an autoimmune history. All three doctors, PCP, ENT and rheumatologist recommend seeing a neurologist. I am going to physical therapy for dizziness and feeling lightheadedness with light nausea. She also suggested seeing a neurologist. As you can see I am something of a mess. I don’t mind the annoyance during the day, especially if it is quiet, because I can talk, turn on the tv, etc. But sleeping is another issue. I have had numerous blood tests. Those that have come back are all within the normal ranges. I can hear in both ears. Right better than left although left is normal sometimes. I judge the left ear by how well I can hear when using the telephone as I ALWAYS answer the phone with my left hand. I haven’t been scheduled yet with a neurologist and living where I do it may take a few weeks before I see one (there is only one in the area). When the noise gets too loud or the song is too repetitious my blood pressure spikes especially after I have gone to bed. I would appreciate any suggestions to help with sleeping that doesn’t involve medications.

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January 3, 2018 at 12:40 AM

Hello Dr. Bauman,I am a woman who suffers from depression and stress I don’t have hearing loss or tinnitus.A few months ago I heard the voice of a man coming from my laptop speakers,I was able to distinctively hear every word he was saying however the voice did not speak to me directly nor about me it just sounded as if he was having a conversation somewhere else, in fact it sounded almost like a truck driver talking in to a walkie talkie or or a radio dj I even heard some static which made me think that perhaps a nearby neighbor was using his laptop and talking to someone via Skype and our internet lines may have crossed and I was able to hear his conversation,even though I myself was not logged on Skype at the time.The voice lasted a few seconds and then I heard a mild fading sound as if the frequency just died off, it happened so fast and I thought that if I hear it again I will immediately plug the speakers out of the outlet to see if the voice remains and therefore coming out of my head,I should mention that it was mostly audible from my left ear I’m not sure if this is common or relevant in any way anyhow today I heard the exact same man through my speakers again and I immediately plugged the speakers out within 2 seconds and the voice suddenly vanished to my relief however a few minutes later I wanted to hear music on my laptop and replugged my speakers when I realized that even though they had been plugged earlier the volume was completely down at zero so I don’t know if it’s possible that if with the volume fully off I would have still been able to hear a nearby neighbor if our lines had crossed.I’m afraid the voice may have indeed been a hallucination but I’m unsure about it’s nature, based on the article,the fact that the voice was formed and rather clear would be indicative of a psychiatric hallucination yet I’m hopeful it was not related to mental illness since again based on your article non psychiatric voices sound like a radio broadcast and don’t speak to the person directly or about them so here we have two contrasting factors and it’s confusing,I don’t know what to think. I’m afraid of the possibility of having early symptoms of schizophrenia and I’m afraid of telling anyone about this.I would greatly appreciate your opinion,this has been troubling me all day 🙁 I thank you in advance for any response and for this very informative article.

January 3, 2018 at 10:16 AM

You seem to have a good grip on reality and have correctly understood my article. Therefore, I tend to think you are hearing MES sounds and do not have schizophrenia.

When you hear impersonal voices, they often tend to be vague, but not always–or some people just catch a few of the words, but not all of them. There are ever so many variations.

Your depression and stress can bring on MES sounds too. So can any medications you are taking. You can send me a list of the drugs you are on (privately if you like) and I can tell you whether they are known to cause auditory hallucinations (MES). That’s another strong possibility.

You can continue to test whether the sounds are real or not–but I’m pretty sure they are all phantom and very likely just MES.

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January 7, 2018 at 3:24 PM

Many years ago I read about a doctor’s patient who had a hole in his head and when the doctor touched his patients brain, the patient would plainly hear music. When touched in a different spot, he heard different music. The doctor concluded that the music was permantly stored in the brain. Maybe I am hearing stored music memory.

January 8, 2018 at 11:28 AM

You are right. The music of the MES is actually stored memories that are somehow accessed and sent to the auditory system where you “hear” it as real sound. Sometimes the memories are clear and crisp, other times they are vague and indistinct, and still others I think are a mishmash of several memories all smushed together to create “new” music that you’ve not heard that way before.

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January 8, 2018 at 10:45 AM

Thank you for this article it answered all of my concerns

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January 8, 2018 at 7:25 PM

Thank you for the article. My husband woke me saying he heard music and asked if I could hear it too! I could not. He went on saying someone was singing happy birthday and playing a piano. Then he started hearing Alan Jackson singing hymns and he continued to explain the next song after song just like he was playing a cd. He has never heard the songs he described but I am familiar with it. He does suffer from very bad hearing loss from his job. Would hearing aids help him? And what about ear drops? Thank you!

January 8, 2018 at 10:22 PM

Hi Christi:

Hearing aids will help him hear better and may give him some real sounds to hear so he doesn’t focus on the MES sounds and maybe not even hear them during the day. But he’ll likely still hear them at night when he is not wearing his hearing aids.

I can’t see how any ear drops can help MES.

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January 18, 2018 at 3:49 PM

I am so glad I found this website and now know I am not going crazy. I am 78, I didn’t want to tell anyone, not even my doctor. I was afraid to Google it too, but now am glad I finally did. I still don’t intend to tell anyone. I wear hearing aids now for 6 years but not real regularly, only when I know I will be in a group of people. I started hearing a man with a baritone voice singing “O Come All Ye Faithful”, not every single night but often. It would go on over and over until I fell asleep. If I awoke during the night it wasn’t there and I could fall right to sleep again. Also it was gone in the morning and all day, only happens at night when I go to bed. It is still like this. Now I sometimes hear different songs but always religious ones so far. The same man’s voice does the singing. Reading what others have written on here has helped me a lot. I received your book today and will start reading it.

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January 22, 2018 at 5:51 PM

Dr. Bauman, Your article has certainly put my mind more at ease! I was first diagnosed with a monaural (L) loss when I was in college, majoring in, ironically, speech path and audiology. That was about 50 years ago. As might be expected, my hearing has deteriorated to a moderate to severe binaural loss. I also have had chemo that had a side effect of high frequency loss. Well, that just about cinched it! I also live with PTSD, anxiety, and depression. I’m pretty much a classic MES case; right now the entertainment is “Them Old Cotton Fields Back Home!” I live alone and can go for days without the sound of another voice. My 20-year-old TV died not too long ago, and that’s about when the MES started. Oh, I also was a vocal musician for maybe 60 years, so I have quite a repertoire from which to choose! It is nice to know I am not alone or crazy. After a while, having four or five different tinnitus sounds plus the MES gets a little old, however….

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January 25, 2018 at 6:37 PM

Oh my goodness, Thank you! I thought I was going insane! I am mental health therapist and was getting really worried. I’m only 39 but I have hearing loss related to combat. I hear various symphonies over and over in my right ear. Going to see if turning off the fan will help.

January 27, 2018 at 1:17 AM

Hi Shantelle:

If you have a significant hearing loss, the sounds you are hearing are probably not related to fan noise–but you can try to be sure. I think you have full-blown MES, not audio pareidolia.

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January 26, 2018 at 6:24 PM

I first heard music while in a hospital waiting room. It seemed to be coming from a vent, it was an orchestral composition without repetition. I was lucky enough to have had season tickets for 13 years, to the metropolitan opera and the NY Philharmonic. MES patients typically hear music they’re familiar with. For me, that meant the music I heard were complete Operas, complete musical compositions. I was most astonished by my brains ability to have memorized all of those classical pieces, verbatim, with Operas, I was able to hallucinate in whatever language I was most familiar with, whether I was fluent in the language or not.

When tired, not stressed, I experienced more repetition, when exhausted I am forced to listen to music we’re all familiar with, the national anthem, the happy birthday song and, god help me, any pop tune I was exposed to in a store or mall or in the car. My brain hallucinates pop songs back to me much more quickly and I actually learned the lyrics to a lot of pop songs hahaha

It’s interesting as the music only plays when it’s silent in my environment. The music always seems to be coming from somewhere, like the bathroom fan, the hum of the A/C, the whirring sound a fridge makes. I never experience hallucinations from come from nowhere, they always have a ‘source’.

I feel blessed, I can even start Operas when I’m in bed, or I can stop an Aria and replay it by thinking of the tune. Humming doesn’t work, singing doesn’t work, I have to think it.

I thoroughly enjoyed your document. Now I know where the acronym MES came from.

Why are male voices more often heard than female? As well I noticed that I can change the lyrics, only on Pop songs, by thinking of my own lyrics, why is that?

January 27, 2018 at 3:06 PM

I think you are experiencing audio pareidolia where you brain tries to make sense of constant background sounds such as the noise fans and motors make. I think that is why you always hear your phantom music coming from fans, vents, electric appliances, etc. When they cycle off, I’ll bet your music also disappears. If so, you definitely have audio pareidolia. You can read my fascinating article on that subject at .

Normally, when there are other sounds around, it masks these quiet background sounds so you don’t hear them (and thus your brain doesn’t “pattern match” to them so you don’t hear the phantom music.

I think you more often hear male voices because the background sounds are lower-pitched sounds and so are a closer match to male voices.

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February 15, 2018 at 8:44 PM

I have been hearing music since I was 49.. I am now almost 74. If I think of a song it plays over and over until it just goes away and it’s replaced by a tune that is a regular. Any song I think of will play in my head..It sorta drives me nuts if I think about it not stopping…Like right now. I heard Sonny James’ song, “Young Love”, so now that’s all I’ve hearing for the past 2 hours. Oh yes, I am pretty much deaf now and my ear doctor once told me it was like when one has their leg cut off..they can still feel it. I don’t talk about it much because I do get strange looks when I tell people I am listening to “Yankee Doodle”…

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March 1, 2018 at 11:39 PM

I came here while researching sounds I hear, which I am pretty sure cannot be real. I am 68 with, I THINK, normal hearing, even highly sensitive hearing; (sounds drive me nuts.) I live in a very isolated quiet place, alone. This is a total choice. I hate other people’s noise, like to be in control of having it quiet. Last night I was suddenly awakened by knocking on a wooden door at 3am. I sat up and screamed, ‘What the f__k is that?” The knocking was like someone who knew me, wanted in, not at all from strangers sneaking around. I crept to the window and peeked out; no cars. I could see no one on the porch. Convinced myself it was a trick of my brain. Maybe I should mention that I have a very bad cold, was sleeping sitting up with a travel pillow around my neck to support my head. The knocking sounded totally real.

March 12, 2018 at 12:45 PM

Often Musical Ear Syndrome (MES) sounds seem totally real so you are confused whether they are real or not. The proof is to check it out like you did. If you can’t find any cause, then you can safely assume it is phantom.

Our brains can sure play tricks on us at times. Since you only heard this once, I’d put it down to one of those weird things that happen from time to time, rather than to MES. Sometimes anxiety makes us hear such things.

For example, you may have been worried about missing someone coming, so your brain lets you hear a phantom knocking. You can also hear your name being called when no one called it if you are anxious about not hearing a person calling your name. The same is true with the phone ringing. You are in the bathroom and can’t get to the phone and are worried someone is calling, so your brain “cooperates” and lets you hear a (phantom) phone ringing. This is the kind of thing you might have been hearing, and not the usual MES thing.

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March 20, 2018 at 10:22 PM

Thank God I found this information! I finally broke down yesterday and told my 21-yr-old biochem major daughter about how I hear “rap music” when I’m trying to fall asleep. She told me it may have to do with the fact I’m deaf in my right ear due to a labyrinthectomy I had to alleviate my Meniere’s Disease. That possibly my brain is trying to hear, to compensate for not getting the stimuli I’d normally get if I wasn’t deaf and didn’t have MD. Now this makes so much sense and I’m thrilled to know I am not crazy. Although the noise is maddening, I sleep with a fan on and can now try and dismiss the noises as normal for me. Thank you so much.

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March 26, 2018 at 5:05 PM

Hello I am worried,my mother is 72 years old, she doesn’t hear good. She has MES. She ‘s very anxious because her sister has .Alzheimer. My mother takes diazepam 2,5 mg. Could this drug cause the MES.? Is there any Solution? Thank you for your information, there isn’t information about MES in Spanish. Thank you .

March 26, 2018 at 10:45 PM

It is possible that Diazepam is causing her to hear phantom sounds. Hundreds of people have reported having auditory hallucinations and many of those may really be MES. I don’t know of any guaranteed cure. Thus, I give a number of points to try near the end of the article on MES that you read. Those are still my recommendations.

Was your mom taking the Diazepam before the MES began, or did the MES sounds begin soon after she began taking the Diazepam. If the latter, then you can assume the Diazepam may be the likely culprit, or one of the factors involved. However, if the MES symptoms began before she started the Diazepam, then you know the drug is not the culprit.

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April 28, 2018 at 11:06 PM

Please help me My mother had a slight stroke at the age of 95. Afterwards she has developed MES. She would drag me all around the house to listen to the music coming up from downstairs through the heat vents. It started out as hymns and patriotic music however sometimes it is very loud annoying party music. I read an article saying that anxiety medications and anti-depressants would help. Her doctor started her on alprazolam and then escitalopram oxalate when things got worse. She is now inconsolable and claims that we don’t believe her when she tells us about the obnoxious party music. Should we decrease medication at this point?? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

May 5, 2018 at 8:41 PM

As far as I am concerned, the medications don’t help. If she says the music, etc. is coming up the furnace vents, listen yourself and see if the furnace or air conditioner fans are on. She may be experiencing audio pareidolia when the fans are running. If she says the music stops when the fans stop, then you can be sure of it. Otherwise, she is experiencing MES.

Have you tried explaining to her what MES is and that it is NOT a sign of mental health issues, but is just something not working quite right in the auditory parts of her brain. If her music is related to fans running, then explain to her about how audio pareidolia works. See if that will give her some peace.

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May 27, 2018 at 3:07 AM

Hello. my name is David, I am 20 years old and I am a composer. I read your article and found it interesting. I have been hearing music in my head for as long as I can remember, and have been writing down what I hear since I was a small boy. I just wonder, because I do really hear music, but you mentioned in the article that (A) people who experience the phenomena have some sort of hearing loss and (B) they hear songs that already exist. But in my case, I have exquisite hearing, and the music I hear is original, like my brain is creating the music by itself, on the go. It has never really been much of a problem, though it can occasionally be distracting, and I have been known to wake from a dead sleep due to some musical idea or flash of inspiration. I also hear music when I dream, and I suspect I also write music whilst sleepwalking, as I often find little scraps of music that I do not recall writing. So it begs the question, do I “suffer” from this phenomena, or is it something else? Any insight would be appreciated.

May 27, 2018 at 11:00 AM

From what you describe, I rather doubt that you have MES, at least not the typical manifestation of MES. Rather, I think you may be experiencing audio pareidolia, a somewhat similar condition, but with an important difference.

As a musician, your brain is always trying to match musical patterns. So you may be hearing a faint background sound and your brain is trying to match its pattern to something known–and it finds the closest pattern and then forces this background sound into this pattern no matter how close or far it is from the real pattern. Thus you may hear music from a electric fan or motor running.

Read my companion article on audio pareidolia and see whether this better fits with what you are experiencing. You can read it at .

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November 20, 2019 at 2:57 PM

I on occasion have extremely vivid dreams (lucid) in which I hear beautifully composed and performed songs with entire symphonies and wonderful lyrics! When I awaken in the middle of the night I try to will myself to remember what I just heard, but by morning can rarely remember much more than a line or two. In my waking life I cannot write music worth a darn. I wish I could! I think other people would enjoy my dream music too!

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July 5, 2018 at 6:52 PM

Interesting article. I am sitting at my office and most people have gone home. I can hear the white noise from the HVAC system. 20 minutes ago I asked two of my young twenty something programmers … “who is playing music?” thinking one of them had their headphones turned up. They both looked at each other and then said, “what music?” “I think you’re losing it John.” lol. (Hmmm, don’t you guys have reviews coming up?) The music I “hear” is the same song (but not repeating itself) and it is still playing as I write this. Disappears when I stand up. Indistinct – sounds like Robert Plant and Jimmy Page but not like any Zeppelin song I know. Strange.

July 6, 2018 at 2:27 PM

I think you are experiencing audio pareidolia where your brain imposes a structured pattern on the sounds from the HVAC and you perceive it as music/singing. When you stand up, you break the “pattern” and it stops. But if you stood still right there, it may come back. If you haven’t already done so, I’d suggest your read my article on Audio Pareidolia at for more information on this cool phenomenon.

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August 11, 2018 at 10:09 PM

My 90 yr old mother appears to have MES (I read your book). ENT said is quite common, but did not give any helpful information. I was so glad to find your book.

She has CHF, Heart Disease, Lupus, AutoImmune Hepatitis, Difficulty walking due to compound open fractured leg in 2014 and uses walker or wheelchair. Resides in long term care at nursing home.

It started in September 2017 with just a hymn or 2 coming from her TV or my car radio even when both were off. History of Meds changes – on Aug 2017 she was switched from 20 mg Lasix to 1 mg Bumex. (She had lots of fluid and shortness of breath.) On November 2017 the cardiologist added an extra 1 mg Bumex and 5 MEQ Potassium on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. He also changed her to 75 mg Plavix 1 x day from 90 mg Brilinta 2 x day. He said Briinta could also contribute to shortness of breath. Her shortness of breath has subsided. Lungs are clear.

The music became more frequent in late February 2018 and she thought she was going crazy. I mentioned to the nursing home nurse and he said perhaps it was the Bumex. He called PCP who changed it to 10 mg Torsemide on March 1 2018.

Since mid-March 2018, the music became almost constant. Mostly hymns with occasional Christmas or Easter song. She enjoyed hearing the hymns most of the time, but now as time has progressed, she is becoming annoyed and very unhappy.

For the past few weeks she is also hearing a man’s voice talking/singing her name. “Mary Lou, Mary Lou, we are waiting for you. Just walk through the door we are waiting for you.” She is now scared to death. She doesn’t understand the man knowing her name and asking her to join them.

She is on an occasional xanax (12.5 mg) but not often. No other meds for anxiety. On Norco (325 x 5) for 5 years for pain, AutoImmune drugs Imuran, Plaquenil, and occasionally needs Prednisone for 30+ years for Lupus. Takes 5 mg Lipitor, 5 mg Norvasc, 50 mg Tambacor for AFib, and 100 mcg for Thyroid.

I have requested nursing home bring in Psychologist for her to share her fear and anxiety about hearing this music and now the man’s voice calling her name. She still thinks something sinister is going on, even though she is a devout Christian and was raised in church since a toddler. Was a preacher’s wife.

I have copied some pages from your book for her to read about other people’s stories, many similar to hers.

I am very worried that this angst that she is feeling now will end up truly driving her crazy. She has a MP3 where she listens to music so that she doesn’t hear what is in her head. Or turns on the TV to give her something to focus on. I have told her focusing on something else is very important. But she is almost obsessed with talking about this MES with me and my sisters, and we are very worried.

Your opinion, advice, comments would certainly be very much appreciated. Our PCP, Cardio and Hearing Aid doctors are unfamiliar with this and are not able to discuss. Since you are very knowledgable about MES, we are hoping you can help us.

Much thanks!

August 14, 2018 at 10:27 AM

Hi Carolyn:

I’m sure you mother does have MES. Many elderly people hear such phantom sounds–whether they ever mention it or not.

Your mom’s MES may be in whole or in part from the drugs she is taking, or in may be from other factors such as aging, hearing loss, poor health, etc.

Let’s first look at the drugs your mom is taking and see how they may relate to her MES. I’ve listed them in descending order of risk according to the information I have available to me at this time–from worst (top) to best (bottom).

High risk of getting MES (doctors typically classify MES under auditory hallucinations) Norco (Hydrocodone/Acetaminophen) Xanax (Alprazolam)

Moderate risk Lipitor (Atorvastatin) Norvasc (Amlodipine) Lasisx (Furosemide) Prednisone

Low Risk Plavix (Clopidogrel) Torsemide Imuran (Azathioprine) Tambocor (Flecainide) Bumex (Bumetanide)

Not reported to cause auditory hallucinations Brilinta (Ticagrelor) Plaquenil (Hydroxychloroquine)

Apart from the bottom two, all these drugs have been reported to cause auditory hallucinations in some people, but I’d concentrate on the high risk ones first as the likely culprits, then on the moderate ones next as you try to figure out which drug(s) might be responsible (if indeed any are).

As you have read in my book, MES sounds are impersonal. Once they take on a personal meaning (calling her name, telling her they are “waiting for you”, then this starts to fall into the realm of mental illness. Numbers of drugs can mess up your mind so this happens. I don’t track such drugs, but generally, I suspect that the higher they are on the above list, the more likely it is–so getting off the highest risk drugs may be a good start for both the MES and the other.

You are doing the right thing is giving her real sounds to listen to, and trying to get her to focus on other things, not the MES sounds.

At the same time, if any of these drugs are causing her to have psychotic episodes (the personal sounds), then getting her off them may clear this up. That’s how I see it.

August 19, 2018 at 7:34 PM

Thank you so very much for your prompt reply. It was very nice of you to do that. I am wondering what mild to moderate pain reliever could be used to replace Norco 5/325? I see Tramadol, Aleve not good. I would like to see her taken off of it for a while to see if the MES stops. It looks like 3 weeks or so might make a difference per something I read in your book? She has to have something,. Aleve works, but it is also hard on her liver. Kidneys are not in real good shape either. I think you said NSAIDS can cause MES. The acetaminophen is also hard on liver. We don’t need anything terribly strong. If you have time to give some more advice, I would greatly appreciate. I think we will try to dial back the Prednisone right away. She has not taken Xanax for awhile. Much thanks once again. Your book has been such a blessing to us.

August 21, 2018 at 2:47 PM

The problem is that all painkillers have ototoxic side effects so you want to choose one that is the least ototoxic, but at the same time does the job and yet doesn’t have a host of other harmful side effects.

Exactly what pain does she have for which she needs the painkillers? Is it nerve problems or inflammation or muscle damage or what?

Personally, I advocate the use of natural painkiller therapies rather than drugs. But maybe she doesn’t want to do that. For example, just eating natural often raw foods and avoiding processed foods can reduce inflammation so you don’t need painkillers. Cutting way back on sugars and sweets is also important.

So is getting enough high-quality omega-3 fats.

Has she tried chiropractic, acupuncture and/or physical therapy/massage therapy?

Herbals such as Ginger, Curcumin and Boswellia can work very well for pain relief, and for arthritis.

Some are now promoting medical cannabis for pain relief.

So there are many natural alternatives if you/she are open to them.

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September 1, 2018 at 8:54 PM

Thank you!! I also rarely mentioned the music to doctors for fear of having “it sounds like I’m in the viola section of the orchestra” taken the wrong way at the doctor’s office.

My question (note, I’m in my low 40s): why classical music? Why is that what our brains choose to produce?

September 2, 2018 at 9:29 AM

Remember that the “music” you “hear” is taken from your memory banks. So if you’ve heard classical music (especially during your early years), then that’s what your brain “regurgitates”. Some people hear marching (military) music–even though they don’t like that kind of music–but it comes from their memory banks so they have heard it in the past. Many people hear church music from their childhood.

This just seems to be the way our brains work when you have MES.

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September 6, 2018 at 4:11 AM

Hi, I am being harassed by my hard of hearing, 97 year old neighbour. He is vile to me, sends harassing letters etc.. and now has made a formal complaint about the noise. He has the same complaint about the previous owner. It is always male choir music or male commentary, like a news report. He has taken to banging loudly on my wall with a hammer and waking me up in the middle of the night. I’ve been doing some of my own research and this seems to fit. But when he has had some nights away in hospital and a care home recently, he said there was no noise. Would this fit with Musical Ear even if it’s only when he is at home, maybe because the hospital is noisier environment and so helps? I am in contact with his family but he basically collapses when it is suggested it is in his head. Any tips on how I can approach this with them.

September 7, 2018 at 11:35 AM

You are not alone in being harassed by a person with MES. This shows just how real it seems to the person with MES and how their sense of directionality points the finger to you and not to someone else.

The proof that it is all in his head, and not based on reality, is that he accused the previous owner of exactly the same thing–same kind of music, etc.

When your neighbor goes to the hospital, etc., being in a new environment can cause the MES to go away (at least for a few days), but I’ll bet if he stayed in one place for very long, his old MES sounds would come back. For some people, their MES sounds stay with them wherever they move. Some people have even moved multiple times to get away from their MES–but after a couple of weeks or so, it comes back.

I think the reason it upsets him so much when you suggest it is in his head is that his only frame of reference for “hearing phantom sounds” is mental illness, and the very thought of being “crazy” scares him–so he denies that it is phantom sound and goes with the theory that it is real–and thus hammers on your wall.

If he has all his “marbles” and thus can understand that there are two kinds of phantom sounds–one typically is a mental illness such as schizophrenia, and the other is NOT a mental illness, but just something not working quite right in his auditory system–then he can breathe a sigh of relief that he is not crazy, but just hears MES sounds as do millions of others.

If he has any degree of alzheimer’s, you might explain it to him one day and he accepts it, but by the next day he has forgotten all about it and thinks you are playing the loud music again.

It would be good for him and his family to read my article on MES at . You should read it too as it will help you understand what is going on with him–and bring it up to whomever he brings an action against you for falsely making noise that is truly all in his head.

The most you can say about him is that he is truly deluded that the sounds he is hearing are real when in fact, they are phantom.

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November 5, 2018 at 9:43 AM

Can sounds of MES be other than music? My 94year old mother recently has been hearing what she describes as a “mechanical rumbling”-type sound. I say maybe it’s the furnace (or the air conditioner when it happened this summer) but she insists it’s not. This morning she got very excited and asked me “what is that loud sound?” She said it sounds very loud and thought maybe there was construction equipment working outside. I told her no, but the furnace is running maybe that’s what you hear. She said no, she hears it all the time. When the furnace went off, I asked her can you still hear it, she said yes. This has been happening more frequently, she insists she hears this noise. I’m beginning to think maybe I’m having a hearing problem! She has severe hearing loss and wears aids, but they are not working well and we are going to see about new ones. She fits the profile of MES regarding anxiety, social withdrawal, lives in quiet environment. Thank you.

November 7, 2018 at 9:45 AM

Hi Patricia:

For sure. You could hear music, singing, speech/voices and other weird sounds too. I would classify what you mom is hearing under MES (or tinnitus). I experience that rumbling sound from time to time myself. In fact, that was one of the phantom sounds that got me interested in MES in the first place. I have heard from numbers of people that experience this phantom rumbling sound, so it is not totally rare.

One of the interesting things about “hearing” that rumbling sound from phantom construction equipment is that often you also feel the house/building shaking from that sound. So two senses are telling you that you are hearing/feeling something happening–and when that happens, it is hard to believe both are phantom sensations.

Ask her and let me know whether she also “feels” these rumbling sounds as do I.

November 11, 2018 at 6:25 PM

Thank you for your reply. Guess what? Just today, my mother told me for the past four days she has been hearing Silent Night sung by a lovely male voice. I was so surprised when she told me this. She said she was afraid to tell me because she thought she is going crazy! I printed out this article for her to read. She is glad to hear it is a real syndrome.

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November 7, 2018 at 8:16 PM

I have had MES FOR 2weeks. I hear both male and female choirs singing beautifully. At first it was just men who were singing opera. Then I thought I would steer the singers and introduced “America.” The funny thing is I can start them singing by accidentally humming s melody. Then they take off and repeat the song ad infinitum. I have had tinnitus in my left eat for years since I lost 30% hearing due to a fall. It sounds like crickets or tree frogs. I can block that out. But several weeks ago I felt a quick blockage in my right ear ( my good ear). Then the singing started. Is there a list of pills that van cause MES? I am on antidepressants for depression. I can deal with this but was wondering if eat wax could contribute. Yo the situation. I asked my psychiatrist today and he had no answer. Then I found your site. I have been having a hard tile hearing my husband lately also. I am 75.

November 9, 2018 at 5:52 PM

It definitely sounds like you have MES. Appendix 2 in my book on MES called “Phantom Voices, Ethereal Music & Other Spooky Sounds” contains a long list of the drugs (28 pages worth) that can cause auditory hallucinations such as MES. You can get this book at

Ear wax only contributes to MES if your ear(s) is blocked so that you have more of a hearing loss. This could exacerbate your MES. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the drugs you are on are causing or exacerbating your MES. Was there a new drug you started 3 weeks ago or so, or increased the dose on an existing drug. If you noticed your MES after starting a new drug or increasing the dose on an existing drug, that is very likely the culprit.

Since you have a hard time hearing your husband, it’s time to get hearing aids of some sort, so you can hear him better. You obviously have a significant hearing loss.

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November 11, 2018 at 5:42 PM

Dr. Bauman, about 10 or so years ago I was experiencing what I have come to learn to be Musical Ear Syndrome. The music was as many people claimed to hear, it would be a choir singing, over-the-top type of music like religious music, or patriotic music, but nothing unpleasant. At first, I thought it was the neighbors, then I came to realize that it was a fan that I had on. When I turned the fan off the music stopped. I had a hissing in my left ear that had gotten worse, so I went to the auditory clinic.

My left ear had been damaged in the military and I was hard of hearing in that ear. During my visit to the clinic, I was told that I had a condition called tinnitus. I accepted it for what it was and just dealt with it. I found that if I focus on something else, I would not notice it. However, as time went on, I began hearing this music again. It was getting clearer and I was hearing it more often, I was even beginning to hear some of the popular music. This went on for quite some time, so I decided to talk with a psychiatrist about it. He asked me to take part in an experiment, and I agreed so he gave me Valium. The Musical Ear Syndrome stopped, but the tinnitus has remained. I took the Valium for about two or three weeks before I stopped taking it because it was making me tired all the time. However, only the tinnitus remained for years. About six months ago the Musical Ear Syndrome began to return. Very faint at first, but as the months have gone by it has been getting more pronounced. I haven’t decided what I want to do with it yet… maybe nothing… time will tell.

I wanted to understand it; after finding nothing satisfactory or conclusive on the web about this condition, I decided to try and analyze it the best I could. Here is my unprofessional opinion based upon the conclusion of my self-analysis.

I have studied enough neurology to know that our brain loves patterns. It’s always looking for a way to see patterns, that’s the reason we see faces in the moon a piece of toast and that sort of thing. The brain is taking what it knows and trying to find the association with what it knows with what we see. There are also auditory patterns in the music we hear, these patterns are placed in our memory for referencing just as the visual patterns are.

Although, I don’t have the knowledge or the equipment to test it, but I do think it’s reasonable to assume that the data in the pattern when a fan is producing white noise, and/or the damage in the auditory system is producing a constant hissing or ringing sound, -tinnitus, (in my case my left ear), the brain is trying to find the pattern in that sound. If there are any modulations at all in the monotone noise, then the brain fills in the missing information to satisfy its need to find the auditory pattern. Once it finds the pattern that best fits the faint modulation it continues to play that same pattern over and over. Keep in mind, that the white noise sound or tinnitus sounds cover most of the frequencies that the ear can hear, which would explain why the music is always a choir, a quartet, and orchestra, in other words, music that is modulated over several frequencies. That’s just my thoughts.

December 2, 2018 at 7:54 PM

You are amazingly close on your analysis. Have you read my article on audio pareidolia at . This explains the concept of our brains finding patterns in background sounds. This isn’t really Musical Ear Syndrome, but since I originally included it in MES, I now call it a subdivision of MES, but it is entirely different in that it arises from a real background sound that the brain forces into a musical pattern. True MES arises without reference to any background sound–so it is truly a phantom auditory hallucination.

MES and tinnitus are somewhat related in that there is no external auditory stimulus as there is in audio pareidolia, but they are two different “animals” in that MES is modulated sound, whereas tinnitus is unmodulated sound. MES arises from memories or snatches of memories that the brain puts together and somehow get into the auditory circuits so you think you are hearing it from your ears (when you’re not really hearing anything).

Tinnitus has to do with neurons having nothing to do because of hearing loss, so they are super-activated by what is going on at the edges of the hearing loss. That is why tinnitus is often at a frequency close to that of your greatest hearing loss–typically a high-pitched sound–since 90% of people with hearing loss lose their high-frequency hearing first.

Some tinnitus is activated by non-auditory sensory nerves that carry pain and other sensations to the brain, and where in the brain the get misdirected by multi-tasking neurons. That is why some people hear tinnitus when they clench their teeth, or turn their necks sharply left or right for example.

Thus there are at least 4 different conditions that give rise to these strange sounds we hear from time to time, or continually.

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November 25, 2018 at 11:14 AM

My 85 year old aunt has been hearing loud music (mainly drums) for six months. She believes she is “under attack” by an obsessed neighbor who is intent on ruining her life. She has called the police numerous times. We have gone there and never heard it. A neurologist did an assessment and diagnosed her as having Lewy Body Dementsia. Having just read this article, it seems like to may actually have MES. We will pursue this with neurologist. Thank you for this very useful description.

December 2, 2018 at 10:57 AM

I agree. If her doctor has never heard of Musical Ear Syndrome, he goes with what he knows–and best fits her situation and in this case he came up with Lewy Body Dementia. But if he studies my article on Musical Ear syndrome, he may decide that it better fits her situation (if he’s open to new information).

Incidentally, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. She could have both conditions to some degree.

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December 16, 2018 at 5:08 PM

I am 17 years old. I have been hearing repeatedly songs in my head day and night for 1 month and more. I had a lot of stress the past 2 months because of my exams in the summer( these will put me to university). I am an athlete ( champion in my sport) and stopped training about 3weeks ago. I will start again, as I think it might be related. I don’t know how to “relax” as everyone says. I might just leave for a little the hard studying and early mornings studies to rest. Do you beleive it is very serious and I will be fine and concetrated for them?

December 21, 2018 at 1:11 PM

When you say hearing songs in your head–are you meaning running through your mind, or “hearing” them as though they were coming from your ears?

Stress may certainly bring on such situations. So can a lack of sleep. So make sure you get enough sleep (ideally 8 hours of sleep per night). And do things to reduce you stress–in other words study in moderation.

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January 2, 2019 at 2:27 PM

In high school, 16/17 year old, I’d hear orchestra playing really loud in my ears when I study advance mathematics. When I stop writing/ thinking, the orchestra disappears.

When I’m writing essays for English and Economics I’d hear the sound of construction drills and hammers. Sometimes, when I’m alone in a quiet room, I hear knockings. Radio noises is common too when a fan or A/C is turned on.

I’m 20 now, I don’t hear the orchestras anymore (maybe because I am not as studious as before) Kinda miss it. All that’s left is ticking from the car signal, alarm sirens, beeping, radio noises, repetitive songs that are mumbled.

I am diagnosed with ADHD and Anxiety disorder. I also have trouble hearing from my left ear (checked by a specialist). My social anxiety makes me paranoid. I can hear whispers from a group of people talking about me.

Is this normal?

January 3, 2019 at 1:08 PM

Hearing phantom sounds is not normal, but it is fairly common, especially if you have some hearing loss. Hearing music/radio when you have a fan or A/C on is nothing to worry about as it is basically part of being human. This is called audio pareidolia where you brain tries to match the pattern of the sound produced by the fan to some pattern stored in memory. It find this closest pattern match (no matter how “far out” this match may be and superimposes the match on the sound so you hear music instead of the fan noise.

Are you taking any medications for you problems? If so, that may be the reason why you are hearing these phantom sounds now. Some medications can cause you to hear things like the whisperings of people talking about you. If you hear phantom people talking about you, this could be a sign of mental illness.

You may have several of these conditions at once.

January 10, 2019 at 7:28 AM

Im currently medicating my ADHD with retlin. I will visit my psychiatrist soon to conduct some test for any possible mental illness.

Thank you doctor.

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January 7, 2019 at 5:04 PM

Absolutely amazing. Thank you Doctor. I was once misdiagnosed by a nurse practitioner as bipolar due to tinnitus and musical ear syndrome. A psychiatrist had to assure me I was misdiagnosed. Added to the fact that I had a military injury from training explosion, I also had a possible brain anomaly / tumor at last MRI, it is nice to know I may not be as crazy as I once thought. Thank you. Your insight goes a long way towards easing stress from worrying about it. I still had my doubts up until now about the head shrinkers explanations of tinnitus and ‘ phantom sounds ‘ Musical Ear Syndrome is a much nicer term I think. ( Note- yeah, I know they don’t like being called head shrinkers. lol ) Much Appreciation for this explanation. David

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December 31, 2021 at 1:21 PM

Now I’m afraid to mention this to my doctor!

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February 16, 2019 at 1:13 AM

Thanks for this great article! I’m hard of hearing from a bout of meningitis as a toddler, completely deaf in one ear and with profound loss in the other ear. I’ve worn a hearing aid all my life and I used to hear entire symphonies and long classical music pieces in my head when I was a kid. My dad is a classical/choral composer, so I was around the music a lot, and would often “hear” music the next day after going to a concert or recital. I don’t remember when that faded away; I think gradually in my twenties, when I would more often have MES of rock or jazz music if at all. I used to wish I could write it down, and wondered if they were original compositions or if my brain was just replaying stuff I’d heard. The “channeling Schubert” comment was spot-on – I sometimes felt like that!

I no longer have that type of long complex MES, but have had tinnitus at times – particularly severe right after stairstep hearing losses in the last 10-15 years as my hearing worsened. Usually it was like loud traffic noises, often a distant marching band or far-off music. Since getting a cochlear implant a few months ago, I’ve noticed that I have more MES, mostly the type of far-off “radio” or choral music sounds. My kids are always playing music on their phones so several times I’ve asked, “what are you listening to?” and they’ll say, “Mom, I’m not playing music now.” It’s kind of cool, and I wouldn’t mind the MES coming back the way I used to have it. As part of my auditory training, I’m starting to play the piano again and wonder if that’s stimulating the MES.

Interestingly, I’ve never met anyone else who had such detailed auditory hallucinations, and had to convince a psychiatrist that it wasn’t a sign of mental illness. I always thought it was more of a musical-genes-gone-awry sort of thing, my brain making it up in the absence of sound. Norman Doidge discusses phantom limb pain in “The Brain That Changes Itself” and it immediately struck me that tinnitus is very similar. Your article confirms that and was a fascinating read. Thanks again!

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March 24, 2019 at 10:05 PM

Thanks for this info. I just started hearing noise in my left ear. I haven’t heard anyone really say they hear things how I am, but its all close enough. I’m hoping that it goes away soon. Another few days will tell me if its from one or two things. If not then I just hope its nothing too bad… I dont have the right health insurance or money to get looked at. But for now wind static that turns into death metal and rap layered together sung by other dimensional beings/my super subconscious will be something I deal with.

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August 13, 2019 at 11:27 AM

I’m so grateful I found this article – I thought I was losing it! I’m 46 and don’t have any hearing loss that I know of (at least not out of my range for my age), but I do occasionally experience tinnitus. I hear what sounds like big band music or commercials where the announcer has a verbal cadence like a 1950s mid-atlantic newsreel. Every once in awhile I’ll hear choral music, and it’s beautiful. It just started a few months ago, and I wasn’t sure if it was the neighbors or perhaps an odd sound being thrown off by a fan in our room, but my husband can’t hear it at all and the dog doesn’t react, so I realized it’s all me. I’m so happy to hear there’s an explanation. I do have a form of epilepsy, so it’s something to bring up to my neurologist and GP during my next round of visits. THANK YOU!

August 13, 2019 at 12:51 PM

Interesting you suspected your fan. If your only hear these phantom sounds when the fan is running, then you have audio pareidolia, not MES. You should read my article on the subject then. If that is not the case, then its possible that you have lesions in your brain associated with your epilepsy. These could be causing the MES phantom sounds.

What changed in your life a few months ago before these phantom sounds began? That is the place to start to try to figure out the cause. It could be undue stress or anxiety or depression. Or your epilepsy changed somehow. Did you expose your ears to loud sounds back then? See what you come up with.

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August 26, 2019 at 2:55 PM

I am so glad I found this article. I live in a very secluded area in Tennessee surrounded by a nature preserve and for the last 4 years in the middle of the night I have awoken to music. It changes all the time (from gospel to rock to country music) but always from 12 AM to 3 AM. I thought my alarm clock radio was the problem and moved it away from my bed.

I still heard it. Sometimes faintly, sometimes I recognize the song.

Lately its gotten louder, happening all the time and more annoying. I am home full time and am getting the house ready to sell so stress is at an all time high. I keep a quiet home (very rarely is the TV is on) and this at least explains what I am experiencing.

I am 53 and have had inner ear infections my whole life and have slight hearing loss in my left ear. Didn’t help that I had to fly frequently with my job for the past 30 years as a flight nurse.

At least now I know what it is and that I have not totally lost it.

August 27, 2019 at 12:01 PM

No, you have not lost it. You are still as sane as the rest of us. You may find after your move that your stress settles down and the phantom music will fade away.

September 3, 2019 at 9:27 PM

Well, I’m back to give an update. I’m still hearing this noise. Been like 4 or 5 months now. And I’m hearing every day since. Though oddly enough about 3 days ago it was cold all day, and I dodnt hear it at all that day. I thought I was “cured” for lack of a better word. But the next day it came back and is staying. Scary enough the news recently had a report of a woman with a spider in her ear, and another that had an infection from cotton swabs bits that was eatting at her skull or something. I’m wondering if an Urgent Care would be able to help, cause that would only cost $90, or id they would just take my money and tell me I need a specialist. Which I cant afford. I’m at a catch 22, on one hand I’d rather just deal with it, and spend the money I have on bills and food for my family, but on the other hand, if its something wrost, I might end up not being around for my family. I dont feel any pain that I’m aware of, though I have a high pain tolerance. And I used to stress about money a lot, but since I got a new job about a month after this noise started, money, while not super great, is a lot better. I can still hear out of my ear. Something clearlyish, sometimes super muffled. Its weird though when the noise goes from the static wind to music, at which point I can feel it in my jaw like a pulsing to the beat, or like a filling is picking up a radio even though thats not it.

September 17, 2019 at 2:37 PM

Hi Salival:

I’ll bet any Urgent Care center will either refer you to an ENT, or tell you that you have tinnitus and will have to learn to live with it–and gladly pocket your $90.00.

I doubt there is anything organically wrong with you. Around 50,000,000 people in the US have tinnitus of one kind or another. That’s how common it is. The vast majority of them just ignore it and get on with their lives and it ceases to bother them much if at all.

I’m wondering if you have tonic tensor tympani syndrome where you can get a pulsing feeling and sounds are muffled–for two symptoms of this condition. It is basically an anxiety/stress kind of condition. You can read more about it in my article at .

At the same time, you may have Musical Ear Syndrome that gives you the music, or you may be experiencing Audio Pareidolia where your brain turns constant background sounds into music and other sounds. You can read more about it at .

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November 2, 2019 at 6:55 AM

You may want to consider “sleep deprivation” as a cause. Mine becomes very prominent after not having slept for example, and that was actually the first time I noticed it. (Lots of all nighters when I was young, always was a night owl.) I have been hard of hearing or near-deaf in 1 ear my entire life.

November 3, 2019 at 8:15 AM

Hi “L”:

For sure, lack of sleep can lead to hearing all sorts of weird sounds. I get a loud roaring sounds like a freight train is about to burst though the wall. Really scary. Others have this same experience. Other people have various auditory hallucinations–and MES sounds can be one of them.

Fortunately, this kind of hallucination is so easy to fix–get to bed and get enough sleep.

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November 16, 2019 at 5:52 AM

When I was in my early 40’s, I started experiencing this kind of phenomenon. We lived on a farm and at night, I’d wake up and hear what sounded like an old gramophone playing 1920’s style music. When we moved to the suburbs, I’d hear what sounded like a choir of what I can only describe as angels. My sister confessed that she’d hear the same thing when she lived with us. I’d also occasionally hear someone call my name–a man’s voice that sounded like my father who passed over 40 years ago. Its comforting to know I’m not the only person to experience this.

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December 3, 2019 at 10:19 PM

This’s what happening to me for last one week- Started with buzzing in my left ear then suddenly started listening many songs and voices of my family and friends. I can also hear future conversations of few people. I can’t sleep. And now I am having headache and looking like blurred vision. Also, I am having pain on my neck. What should I do? Any suggestions? Is this a matter to worry? Thanks

December 4, 2019 at 6:23 AM

You haven’t told me your background to what started a week ago. What was going on in your life then? Anxiety? Depression? Stress? Taking any drugs or medications? Exposed your ears to louder sounds? Have a hearing loss? Etc. This is important information I need.

All I know is that your started with tinnitus, then changed to MES of some sort–but here I’m a bit cautious as you say you hear the voices of family and friends–this is not usual in people with MES. Then you say you hear “future” conversations. If you hear them before the people say them, then this is definitely not MES. Furthermore headaches and blurred vision don’t have anything to do with MES.

So I think you have something going on in your brain. I’d have a neurologist check you out–you may need a brain scan, etc.

If you have pain in your neck–I’d suggest having an upper cervical spine chiropractor also checking you out in case it is all related to a pinched nerve in your C1 or C2 vertebrae.

I’d definitely do something about this. Those are my two suggestions.

December 5, 2019 at 1:04 AM

Yes I was into a state of mental tension/stress for last few months due to some personal issues.

I have never been exposed to louder music and can hear properly.

December 5, 2019 at 1:14 AM

And also you won’t believe but I heard a complete 3 hours Bollywood movie while trying to sleep.

This sounds weird but true.

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December 16, 2019 at 7:38 AM

Just reading this article helped my mom immensely. She hasn’t bee able to sleep for over a month. The steps to address the issue were really helpful. She has accepted that the music is not really external and she has been able to sleep soundly the past two nights since reading this. We were thinking about getting hearing aids for tinnitus (with masking noise) – does that make sense for this condition? She also has a history of Meniere’s and has tightness in her neck, so I think a visit to the chiropractor may be a good idea as well.

December 16, 2019 at 12:04 PM

Glad the MES article helped your mom. Now that she doesn’t have to worry about it, she can rest easily and sleep soundly again.

If she doesn’t have tinnitus, I wouldn’t use a tinnitus masker hearing aid. Just wearing a regular hearing aid so she hears more sounds is all that her brain really needs.

And since she has Meniere’s, visiting a upper cervical chiropractor seems to be an excellent idea. No point in her having Meniere’s when it can be so easily treated.

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June 4, 2020 at 3:46 PM

My MES (a male voice in my right ear singing with the syllable ‘la’) has an additional component which I didn’t see listed here. I can control the melody somewhat by imagining it. For example, if I imagine singing a rising scale without making a sound the MES will follow what I am imagining. it is as if the MES originates or is influenced by the part of the brain involved when you imagine a melody without singing it out loud. Not complete control – maybe around 75%.

June 9, 2020 at 11:51 AM

MES seems to be pretty flexible in some people so they can control it in various ways. Others don’t seem to have any control at all. I don’t know why. You have an interesting version of MES.

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June 7, 2020 at 6:52 PM

I started to hear muffled music 30+ years ago when we moved on this farm. It sounded as if it was a low volume radio plastered into a specific corner of the living room. 10 years ago we tore down the old house and built a new one in the same spot. The music continues. And in a similar spot as the old living room corner. This started when I was 18yr. I am 51 now. The music changes… I can recognize the style or even the band playing occasionally even the song. Swing, hard rock, 80’s rock, Queen, the weirdest was the night of a baseball game… (i hate baseball) It is so routine, not nightly, not predictable just not worrisome anymore that I ask if my husband can hear it, and he asks what they are playing tonight. At the beginning, I had not noticeable hearing issues, one ear was clearer to hear from but was known to talk on different phones at both ears, one with hold music and carry conversation with the other. 30+ years later,the only thing the same, is the fact of music at random times in random positions, laying in bed and sitting in current living room. I was diagnosed with migranes in the early 80s with eeg and cat scans, and the music started in the late 80s. I just found this article and never heard of MES before.

June 9, 2020 at 8:07 AM

Sometimes headaches can be linked to weird ear conditions such as MES, hyperacusis, etc. I find it interesting you heard the MES in one place in your old house and in a similar place in your new house. Is it the location, or is it that you sit down and relax in the living room? I think it might be the latter–and when it is otherwise quiet and your are relaxing, that is when you are most likely to hear MES. That is also why you commonly hear MES when in bed.

June 14, 2020 at 8:01 AM

I can hear it walking around trying to “find” it, not just when relaxing. I have heard it when watching tv, or doing mental work on the computer. It is to a point that the music is just like a friend walking by the house that hollers out saying hello…..

June 26, 2020 at 11:09 AM

You’ve got a good attitude–make friends with your phantom music–and you don’t worry about it. That’s a good way to cope with it when you can’t find any way to get rid of it. It’s a benign condition in any case.

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August 20, 2020 at 12:12 PM

It started with MES. No longer is it the national anthem or Handel’s Messiah – it’s just a constant tone similar to hundreds of bees. My problem is, however, that this “noise” interferes with my ability to listen to real music at a concert, on TV, CD’s etc. The real music is terribly distorted , so out of tune that I barely , if at all, can recognize what I am hearing. I can no longer attend concerts or listen to my musical CD’s. I’ve had an MRI and EEG, seen a neurologist and neither the neurologist, my primary care physician or EMT doctor can find a reason for this horrible debilitating ailment. Have you heard from others experiencing this and what was their diagnosis ?

August 20, 2020 at 1:32 PM

It sounds like you had MES in the beginning, but now it sounds like it has morphed into regular tinnitus–bees buzzing. This does happen. Sometimes MES comes out of tinnitus and eventually fades back into tinnitus.

But hearing distorted music, etc. is another condition from MES or tinnitus. Often it is associated with exposing your ears to music and other sounds that are too loud for your ears to stand. Are/were you in the habit of going to concerts, nightclubs, or other loud venues, and/or listening to your CDs at high volumes?

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October 3, 2020 at 7:53 PM

After laying in bed googling my symptoms which I have had for over 4 years now, i finally found your site! I have searched over and over in a futile effort to find out what is wrong with me. It started after I had a massage of the head and neck from an inexperienced relaxation massage therapist. It started as a buzzing sensation in my neck and down to around T2-4 region. It was absolutely awful and felt like I had a million bees buzzing in my neck/shoulders. Over time I just found ways to tune this out and it gradually became a sensation of a rumbling. Like a car with noisy dual exhausts, sitting outside of my house but there never was. At times, it becomes so violent that I swear that someone else would be able to feel me buzzing/rumbling if they put their hand on my neck or back. I am clinically, profoundly deaf, though I do hear with a hearing aid but it’s not enough to drown out the sensation. The only thing that masks it, is driving or being in a moving car.

Do you have any suggestions for how I can get silence back in my life? I’m tired of feeling/”hearing” this rumbling sound that appears to originate on the right side of my head/neck. I do not have any form of ear components on the right side(no inner, middle or outer ear) due to Goldenhar Syndrome. I also have C5/6 and T3/4 congenital fusion .

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the above. Thanks.

December 31, 2020 at 4:37 PM

From what you have said, I think the massage therapist put your upper neck “out” and that is the cause of your tinnitus (buzzing sensation and later the rumbling sensation).

If I were in your shoes, what I’d do is go to an upper cervical spine chiropractor (NOT a conventional chiropractor) and have him check that your C1 and C2 vertebrae are in proper alignment. They take precision xrays so they can tell if you are out even 1 degree.

Note: there are about 10 different “kinds” of UCS chiropractors, but because your neck is also partly fused, I’d highly recommend you go to a “Blair” chiropractor as they are very gentle and won’t hurt your neck.

You can find an upper cervical chiropractor by clicking on “Practitioners” at . 2 to 4 lines from the bottom of each listing it tells the method the chiropractor uses. Look for “Blair” if you can find one reasonably near you. They aren’t very common though. The most common are Atlas orthogonal or NUCCA. I’ve been to a NUCCA guy and while he got rid of my vertigo with no problems, my impression is that they may be too “rough” for your neck.

This is the first thing I’d try given your symptoms.

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October 19, 2020 at 12:18 AM

Hello! I also have musical ear syndrome. I hear non-phy ones. Where it sounds like a man on the radio is talking while my fan or air conditioner is running. I do seem to be losing my hearing and I do have tinnitus. I thought it might be because of the radio station antenna that is right down the street. I was working as a telephone installer/repairman a few years ago and noticed in the area I now live in devices that I plugged my equipment to in the area of the antenna began to pick up the radio station and my hand set would play the music and dj. The station is a Spanish station. I recently thought that maybe because many devices pick up interference just like my hand set and alarm system that we had to add filters to the phone lines to redirect the interference, that maybe our bodies may be doing the same somehow. The fan and the air conditioner have coils. Feet or miles of wound up coils of usually copper. Metals accept interference from the open air. And just lines of straight wire does too especially if it is not grounded. This is just a theory of mine. I find it very weird that it does sometimes sound like music as well but I can’t quite make out what songs.

November 17, 2020 at 8:22 AM

If you only hear the phantom sounds like the man on the radio talking or music when your fan or air conditioner is running, then almost certainly you have a condition called audio pareidolia rather than Musical Ear Syndrome.

With audio pareidolia, your brain tries to make sense out of constant background sounds like fans and motors that have a little bit of eccentricity (modulation) in them. It tries to pattern match to the closest pattern it has stored in its memory. However, because the background fan type of sounds are not very distinctive, the closest pattern it chooses can be way off. That is why instead of just hearing the fan sounds, it forces the sounds to match a pattern of music or voices–and thus, that is what you hear.

When the fan or motor quits running, instantly these sounds disappear, and typically reappear only when the fan cuts in again.

I don’t believe that the kinds of sounds you are describing have anything to do with an actual radio station. This is especially true because you say that you can’t quite make out what songs they are playing (which would be the case with fuzzy pattern matching). If it was an actual radio station, especially a nearby station, you should have clear sound and know exactly what words are being said or sung.

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July 11, 2021 at 6:33 AM

Patient said she went from church hymns to Christmas Carols to post world war two musicals. If she heard Hello Dolly one more time she might kill herself. Told her to come see me before it changed to rap!!!

July 11, 2021 at 3:04 PM

Hi Dr. Mike:

I’m curious. Have you been able to help people that have Musical Ear Syndrome (MES) like the lady above? I never considered that it could be caused by a neck misalignment. MES is a close cousin to tinnitus, but almost always only occurs in hard of hearing people.

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July 22, 2021 at 11:44 PM

Thank you for all of the information. I have been experiencing musical ear syndrome and hearing buzzing or breaking noises for a while now. I thought it was just an active imagination, which I guess it can be, but tonight I really thought I heard voices outside my house to the left, they were muffled, yet no one was there. I do feel like occasionally when I hear sounds they are muffled slightly like I have a lot of wax in my ears or if there’s white noise in the background I have a hard time understanding what people are saying. Being 28 and not having a diagnosis of any hearing loss currently, I’m going to have it checked out just in case.

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August 11, 2021 at 8:06 PM

I wanted to say I have been having the musical ear experience off and on for a while which is generally plesent. But sometimes I have had a few hair raising times when I’ve heard a loud voice almost right next to my ear, usually it’s my name or something along with my name. I’m quite certain this mostly happens right as I’m in the almost asleep but not quite phase. Some times I feel rather conscious when it happens but still in bed. Rare but scares the crap out of me. I also usually think it happens I have a quick snore/snort at the time but never totally sure. Thoughts

August 15, 2021 at 7:36 AM

Probably what you are experiencing are hypnagogic sounds. Here is a quote out of my tinnitus book.

“During the semi-conscious state as you are just drifting off to sleep, or you are just waking up, you may experience various hallucinations. Some of these hallucinations are auditory hallucinations where you “hear” weird, and often loud, phantom sounds.

If you are just falling asleep, you are having a hypnagogic experiencing. “Hypnagogic” is just a fancy medical term that denotes a transitional state resembling hypnosis preceding sleep, applied to various hallucinations that may manifest themselves at that time.

What is happening is that your conscious brain is ‘shutting down’ at the point of going to sleep. Many electrical changes occur at this time, and these are often heard as a changing form of tinnitus. These sounds may be frightening but they are completely harmless. For example, one man began to experience explosive and roaring noises which start just as he is about to drop off to sleep.”

If you have similar experiences just as you are waking up, these are called hypnopompic sounds.

Nothing to be worried about–but can be scary just the same.

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January 6, 2022 at 10:24 AM

Dr. Bauman–I started hearing singing about a month ago: the common MES songs like God Bless America, Silent Night, Jingle Bells. The Star Spangled Banner, etc. A hearing exam showed significant hearing loss in both ears and I now have hearing aids. One morning I tried to trigger one of the songs by mentally singing the first line. That worked multiple times. Then I tried singing the first line to some 1960’s rock and roll songs. It worked every time. I’m being serious. The common MES songs still play but I can change the song. Hearing songs anytime it’s quiet is still annoying and problematic but having the ability to change the song has helped somewhat. I take an antidepressant and a prescribed sleeping pill and they both help. Have you known any MES people who have had this ability to choose the songs? I’m 72 years old and a recently retired college professor.

January 8, 2022 at 6:56 AM

Yes, some people have the ability to change their MES songs at will. Others can change them with a bit of effort, but many don’t seem to be able to affect their songs no matter what they do. You are one of the fortunate ones, as listening to the same songs over and over and over again gets boring and annoying.

Some people can change them by mentally singing a different song, and some have to physically sing them out loud to effect a change.

Some people, when they change a song, find that when the song ends it reverts back to the previous MES production, while others find that the new song just plays endlessly until the “force” it to change.

So you are not unique it this ability.

Why this happens, I don’t have a clue yet. I wish I did as knowing why can lead to understanding how to effectively get this to stop.

January 8, 2022 at 7:47 AM

Thank you for your reply, Dr. Bauman. It’s good to know that others have been able to do this, too. I seem to be able to stop the song from repeating, even when it’s one of “my own.” The other interesting this is that some of “my” songs play without my effort. They’ve made it into the MES playlist 🙂 It only works with songs that I know most of the words to. My plan is to learn the words to more songs. Perhaps someday “my” songs will dominate “their” playlist 🙂

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January 13, 2022 at 6:24 AM

Reading about this makes me wonder if my husband has this. He “lost” hearing in one ear. He is getting Alzheimer’s. He has depression, and has neck problems. He has me go look all the time to see if a car is outside..he hears one running..I don’t hear one. He says he lost hearing in one ear after a target practice with a pistol yet he can hear a pin drop…I believe when the person was told the “interpreter” was gone he was talking about the person’s inability to comprehend…just from experience with my husband. Sometimes I am right beside him and he can’t understand what I am saying…

January 13, 2022 at 6:43 AM

Hi Delires:

If your husband just hears a “car running”, rather than having MES, he probably has a rumbling kind of tinnitus.

He also may have another kind of hearing loss. Typically you think of hearing loss as just needing more volume and you can hear again. That is one kind. But just as common, but not well know is a “hidden” kind of hearing loss where the damage from loud sounds (like gunshots) causes you to not understand what you hear, especially if there are other sounds around.

He may also have some degree of MES too. He could have all three conditions at the same time.

Can he really hear a pin drop, or does he just think he hears it? You can drop a pin near him without telling him and see if he hears it or not.

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February 2, 2022 at 1:35 AM

I was just wondering if any of the others hearing songs have ever had this happen.

One day whilst I were clearing through old boxes from when moved homes I came across a cd with 70’s I used to love. There was one ‘Bad Moon Rising’. I was trying to remember what was on side B of the 45 record I had years ago and the singing of ‘Every Lonely Day’ began from outside my house. I who hardly ever cry had tears in my eyes. 😊

February 6, 2022 at 6:44 AM

Hi Valerie:

Some people can change their MES music by just thinking about a different song. This seems to be sort of the same thing in your case. The song came to you mind and the MES took over and sang it for you.

February 2, 2022 at 1:42 AM

Every Lonely Day was on the B side of Love Grows by Edison Lighthouse so wasn’t the back of ‘Bad Moon Rising’ but both records were on this same 70s CD. How did this happen. So very strange.

February 6, 2022 at 6:46 AM

You used to listen to those records back then–so they are all stored away in your memories. And MES basically accesses your memories and dumps them into your auditory circuits where you hear them as MES sounds.

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February 19, 2022 at 4:38 AM

Thank you for this article. I have a blocked right ear (I assumed it’s wax), have been unwell with a kidney infection and my Father died recently. I started hearing what sounded like beautiful, but sad, a male voice requiem type music – like gregorian chants. At first I thought it was coming from next door (only late at night), then it made me think about my Father and I wondered if it was “a sign” that angels were singing for his soul. Then I rationalised it that it was probably my blocked ear and it stopped happening. It came back while I had a temperature and I could distinctly hear a choir singing “Silent Night”. Still can! I just ignore it now. It was quite nice in a way to actually recognise it was silent night as before that I was googling Gregorian chants, requiems and elegies trying to find the piece of music (didn’t have any luck). I had a similar experience in my teens, which, at the time, I talked to others about and found they had the same thing – not music but actual sounds that “continued after they had finished”. In this case it was a chiming clock. I would listen in bed, late at night to see what time it was. It would get to 12 chimes then I’d keep hearing it chiming and count more! Gave up trying to work out what time it was. This is the first time since and I am putting it down to having an infection and a blocked right ear which needs treating. But at first, due to grieving – I did wonder if I was hearing male angels singing for my Father. I found that made me want to find out what that meant, in case it had some meaning after death, so googled hearing a male voice choir and found this article. It is somewhat comforting as it’s so beautiful but I’d like it to stop now!

Just to add, as I have been ill for some time with recurrent infections and waiting for medical treatment I did also at one point wonder if it meant I was dying! So I am very relieved to find this article!

Aha. It’s changed to Once in Royal David’s City now! Same choir by the sound of it.

So – it’s about silence. Either deafness causing silence – or late at night when it is silent and we hear small noises clearer type thing (except not always at night). For me I just need to get my ear syringed, but I am very interested in understanding why the brain lets us hear these specific types of music. Yes it’s familiar but not something I’m in the habit of listening to,.

Could emotional responses be involved as well? Which part of the brain deals with emotions such as grief?

February 21, 2022 at 7:42 AM

When you have Musical Ear Syndrome experiences such as you have been having, often there are two things involved. First is hearing loss, and second is heightened emotions–in your case the stress of your father dying and being sick, etc.

Typically, you brain lets you hear music you used to listen to in your childhood. These kinds of songs/hymns are often deeply embedded in your memories and your brain drags them out and they get into your auditory circuits where your brain then processes them as though they were real sounds you are actually hearing at the moment. This is perfectly benign so don’t read more into it than that.

If they are bothering you at night (or during the day) have some real music playing in the background to give your brain real sounds to process.

If you ear is blocked with ear wax, getting it cleaned out is a good first step. It may alleviate the problem, but then again, it may not as that may not be your real problem that is causing the MES sounds. And you are right that your emotions can causes or make worse the MES sounds you are hearing. Your limbic system has a lot to do with your emotions and their effect on you.

February 23, 2022 at 2:57 PM

Thank you for the reply, much appreciated.

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June 4, 2022 at 4:54 PM

Thank you for this article. Many of the things mentioned in this article resonated with me. I’m now a recovering drug addict so the mention of additional drugs causing it makes sense. I was using illegal drugs when it started happening. It wasn’t all the time, but did seem to require lack of sleep, white noise, plus recent drug use to occur. At first I was certain my partner was messing with me and had a radio on somewhere in the house. I began to notice patterns though such as lack of sleep and white noise such as a fan or the air conditioner. The music/ radio sounds would always come from where the white noise was coming from. When I first started hearing the music it was modern pop music I recognized. But, as time went on I started to hear “radio talking” or commercials and it was always very heavy metal music of songs I didn’t recognize. When I was in between drug use and had been sleeping, I never heard the phantom raido. That remains true to this day. Even though I smoke marijuana still and take a few anti depressants, this phenomenon doesn’t happen anymore.

My crazy theory with this disorder is, the people that experience are somehow picking up radio waves and It’s not completely phantom. I think our brains somehow pickup radio frequency and our mind does the rest to elaborate the music and words. That’s why it sounds like radio, and what people hear is more pertinent to their location. The people effected by this somehow pick up radio waves, but not a real radio station.

June 5, 2022 at 6:09 AM

What you are describing–hearing these sounds as coming from devices that produce white noise such as fans and air conditioners–is called audio pareidolia. In your case, it seems your audio pareidolia only occurs under specific conditions such as lack of sleep and drug use.

You can learn more about audio pareidolia in my comprehensive article on the subject at

As you can see from the above article, it is not radio waves, but sound waves that cause this phenomenon.

November 16, 2022 at 1:11 PM

I have an update! I now know what caused mine. It had gradually subsided over the months so I rarely had it and only very quietly. Gone virtually apart from very occasionally. I have now just started a course of the same antibiotic I was on when I had the kidney infection – had it for two days and the music has come back with a vengeance! Loud and choral and there all the time! So Ciprofloxacin is what did it.

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January 21, 2023 at 2:46 AM

I know this is old and probably won’t be seen, but wanted to comment anyways having just found this site. My MES started a few years ago oddly enough just hearing simple ocarina songs from Zelda that I fairly quickly found out wasn’t actually there when I got to work later that day and realized it was still playing. I’m curious though so I started experimenting what could affect it, found certain noises in the background could change the volume (putting my ear up to the back of a mini fridge almost got it to the volume and clarity to headphone music, normally it’s rather quiet and often indistinct) But what I really became interested in was that after some practice I could change the music as well. Originally I started by focusing on a specific note in my head until it sorta resonated with it. Then i’d go note by note forcing it to play a song. After enough practice it would sort of take off on its own after enough notes were played and play the rest of the song. As I got better at it I needed less and less focus and less notes until now I just think about the first note or two of the song and it goes off and plays it. Almost like having a little ipod in my head. Was very helpful for a while as it was originally hard to sleep with, but some songs seemed to play more quietly than others so I could just switch the song to something more quiet and go to sleep. Now I just seem to more or less naturally ignore it when i’m trying to sleep. The body adapts right? Another interesting thing I noted was that once it started playing more complex songs with lyrics it seems to be able to play songs that I could not for the life of me tell you the lyrics to, yet it seems to play it just fine lyrics and all. I imagine they’re just buried in the head somewhere that I don’t know how to consciously access. Just thought i’d share. Personally I find the whole thing fascinating, though I can understand why others would be concerned or annoyed by it. I was both at times myself. So far though nothing bad has really come of it, albeit some confusion occasionally when I can’t immediately tell whether a song I hear is actually playing somewhere or not. Just one of those things you learn over time: don’t make a comment about the music playing to others until you’re SURE it isn’t coming from your own skull!

January 22, 2023 at 2:49 PM

I’m not clear on whether your sounds are originating from continuous background sounds like the fridge or furnace or fans (audio pareidolia), or whether they are all just in your head–totally phantom music (Musical Ear Syndrome).

I’ve never heard of people being able to change their audio pareidolia, but numbers of people can change their Musical Ear syndrome sounds to some extent–some more than others.

I’d like to know which kind of sounds you hear.

You’ve had an interesting time experimenting with changing the music. Numbers of people would love to be able to do that as one song played endlessly gets on the nerves after a while.

It should be easy to tell whether your “music” is real or phantom–just put your fingers in your ears–if you still hear it, it must be phantom and all in your head.

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January 21, 2023 at 9:19 AM

Your discussion of reactive tinnitus was helpful. I also have hyperacusis and tinnitus. It seems I can get to a point listening to some noises like pink noise, that my ear adapts, then something happens and my progress re: tolerance is reduced. So then I start listening to pink noise again and the tinnitus gets louder again. So you said tinnitus can get worse with exposure to low-level sound, but mine does not go down right away. It continues for a long while. Am I doing damage to try to keep the sound on or should I take a break, have relative silence and then turn on the sound again later. So sound then break; sound than break, etc.?

January 22, 2023 at 3:05 PM

You are not physically damaging your ears, but somehow you are getting setbacks. When this happens you have to lower the sound to just below where it causes your hyperacusis to kick in and then continue on the program.

When you do sound therapy for hyperacusis, you want to have the sound 24/7 slowly increasing over the weeks and months. If it starts to “bug” you, I’d think you have the sound set too high for the level your ears can tolerate at that point.

I don’t see that it is “wrong” to have intermittent breaks IF that is helping you. I don’t argue with success. But if it isn’t and it doesn’t because your tinnitus is spiking it seems. So I’d suggest the continuous sound, but don’t raise it faster than your ears can stand it.

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December 25, 2023 at 11:51 AM

I have had Psychosis but i do hear voices. Also i hear people talking and it sounds like their talking about me. Or music with words all about me and whats going to happen.People are after me etc.has anyone experienced this with Psychosis?.

December 26, 2023 at 8:09 AM

Hi Rosemary:

If you hear voices and music that are neutral–not about you in any way, then you have a benign condition called Musical Ear Syndrome. However, if the things you hear are either directed to you, or are talking about you, that indicates you have either a mental condition (some sort of psychosis such as schizophrenia) or a spiritual condition (where demons are trying to oppress or possess you).

Note: It is possible you can have two or all three conditions at the same time.

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