Before we get into the definition of musical ear syndrome, it is important to understand the basics of tinnitus, as musical ear syndrome is believed to be a form of tinnitus.

If you’ve ever been to a live concert and had ringing in your ears afterwards then you know what it feels like to experience tinnitus. Tinnitus is defined as a perceived sound in the absence of an external noise. In other words, you may hear ringing in your ears but there is no external sound causing the noise. It can sound like many things; however, the most common sounds described are:

  • Ringing

  • Buzzing

  • Pulsating (sounds like your heartbeat)

  • Whooshing

  • Clicking

  • Whistling

  • Humming

  • Roaring

  • Sizzling 

Tinnitus is most often heard in both ears; however, occasionally it will be heard in one ear only. Most people experience tinnitus from time to time, especially after noise exposure, but it’s especially common in those with hearing loss, as most research suggests chronic tinnitus is caused from damage to the hair cells in the inner ear (which also causes hearing loss). Many people report that their tinnitus gets louder when they are stressed, fatigued, or in quiet environments. The vast majority of people who experience tinnitus simply “get used to it” and it doesn’t affect their day-to-day life. 

Most of the time, tinnitus is nothing to worry about; however, if you find yourself experiencing chronic tinnitus, then it is important to have a full audiological evaluation completed by an audiologist. Depending on your medical history and the nature of the tinnitus, your audiologist may decide to refer to an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT). 

What causes tinnitus?

There are many causes such as: 

  • Disorders of the outer, middle and inner ear
  • Trauma to the head or neck (concussion, whiplash).
  • Certain medications
  • Temporomandibular joint (jaw joint) disorders
  • Allergies

For more information on tinnitus, click here!

couple and a doctor

So what is Musical Ear Syndrome (MES)? 

Musical ear syndrome (MES) is described as a form of tinnitus, as people who experience musical ear syndrome report hearing music in their head; however, the music cannot be heard by anyone else. Some experts refer to this phenomenon as a form of auditory hallucinations. The music that is heard when experiencing MES is most often popular music, Christmas carols and church hymns; sometimes sombre in nature. 
As with tinnitus, MES is most often experienced in those with a pre-existing hearing loss. MES is believed to occur in approximately 20% of people who experience tinnitus, which translates to roughly 3% of the general population. 

What can be done about it?

As with tinnitus, there are several treatment options for MES such as:

  • Hearing aids: if you have MES caused by hearing loss, depending on the severity of your hearing loss, you audiologist may recommend treatment with hearing aids.
  • Stress management: as with tinnitus, stress is a major contributor to MES. By tackling your stress levels, you can help alleviate your MES symptoms.
  • Sound therapy: especially in quiet, just like with tinnitus, MES can be bothersome. White noise machines and other soothing sounds can help distract you from the sounds you are hearing in your head. 
women holding her head

If you suspect you have tinnitus and/or MES, call us today to schedule a full audiological evaluation with one of your audiologists. Reach us at 902-865-4455 or 902-465-4334!