by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A lady explained,
I am 38 years old. I have no hearing loss, yet I experience Musical Ear Syndrome (MES). Over the last couple of years, I began noticing that when things are very quiet, like silent almost, I hear faint music. I describe it as hearing a radio station through a pillow. It will sound like a country station one night, a 50s style radio host the next night and maybe classic rock the next night. I can’t make out words or complete songs, but there is a form to the music. If I turn on a noise machine, which helps drown out my husband’s snoring, the MES tends to be louder.
I’m just wondering about experiencing these auditory hallucinations w/out any of the monikers usually associated with the syndrome. I have no hearing loss, I have 3 young children so I certainly don’t have a lack of auditory stimulation and although I have experienced tinnitus from time to time, I don’t think the frequency is any more than any other non-hearing impaired person.
Some people hear faint tinnitus when it is very quiet. Thus, I’m not surprised that you hear faint music when it is very quiet. I think that is your brain wanting to hear something—and when it can’t, it makes up its own so to speak.
I’m not surprised that your “noise machine” makes your phantom music louder. In fact, this is relatively common.
A continuous sound such as a fan running in the background—it could be a furnace, air conditioner, fridge, bedroom fan, etc.—seems to cause numbers of people to hear phantom music.
Somehow the brain takes this constant background sound and modulates it into music. Some people have specifically noticed they hear phantom music whenever their furnace/air conditioner comes on and goes away when their furnace/air conditioner cycles off. Your noise generator is doing much the same thing for you. This is a special kind of MES that is relatively common in people with normal hearing.
Since I wrote the above I’ve done more research on this particular phenomenon. I have written a companion article called “Apophenia, Audio Pareidolia and Musical Ear Syndrome” that you should read. It explains in much greater detail exactly what is going on and why you hear such sounds. I think you’ll find it fascinating.