Why you keep hearing the same tune in your head

When we talk about tinnitus, it’s usually associated with a buzzing, ringing or humming in your ears. It’s a common condition most of au experience at some time or other. A less well-known type of tinnitus is Musical Ear Syndrome, often described as ‘musical hallucinations’.

What is Musical Ear Syndrome?

People with Musical Ear Syndrome hear fragments of music that aren’t playing. It’s usually a familiar tune from their childhood or youth and it feels very real.  Sometimes there are a few musical pieces which occur in a set order. When you first experience this, it’s likely that you’ll believe there’s really music playing. When it becomes obvious there isn’t, it can be confusing and frightening.

What causes it?

Noise exposure, ear infections, jaw alignment issues and hearing loss can trigger all types of tinnitus. Some medications can cause problems too, so it’s worth chatting to your doctor if you think this is a possibility. For some, it is a one-off or occasional occurrence, while for others, it’s ongoing.

How can I manage it?

There are effective ways to manage all forms of tinnitus, including the musical kind. Distracting yourself will help to train the brain to ignore the sound.

  • Improve sleep: If you’re finding sleep difficult, play relaxing sounds at soft levels when you go to bed. Play whatever suits your tastes, but Australian composer Tony O’Connor specialises in relaxing music. Others swear by Sea and Silence by Deuter. Avoiding stimulants like caffeine and alcohol may also help.
  • Relaxation techniques: Stress makes the symptoms more noticeable, which may make you more stressed. Try a regular yoga class or massage. Mindful breathing can help refocus your brain. Take a few moments to focus on your breathing. Imagine air travelling through your body. If you find your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath going in and out. Try it a few times a week to see an impact.
  • Hearing Aids: If your Musical Ear Syndrome accompanies hearing loss, hearing aids will make outside noises louder, distracting from the tinnitus. Visit an audiologist to find out if a hearing aid would be right for you.
  • Apps: Using sound therapy apps like Sound Oasis, you can choose a range of relaxing and environmental sounds to relieve anxiety, improve concentration and reduce the tinnitus symptoms.