by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A grandson wrote:
It seems like my grandma may suffer from tinnitus or “aural hallucinations” as she’s complained of hearing music when she’s at home. We’ve discovered that there’s actually no music playing anywhere nearby. Only she can hear it. She asked me to ask you this; “Why is it that she only seems to hear this music in her own house?”
Good question. There’s a simple answer. Basically your grandma hears such phantom sounds when:
a) she is in a quiet environment such as her house, and
b) she does not have her mind focused on other things.
When she is out and about, there are many other sounds for her brain to hear. Furthermore, she is focusing on the things she is doing so doesn’t think about the phantom music. As a result it often fades into the background. (The same can be true when she is working around the house.)
However, when she is at home relaxing, and particularly when she wants to lay down and rest (or sleep at night), the phantom music starts up, or at least becomes more intrusive. At this point, typically there is little or no background noise around. Also, she is not focusing on any tasks—her mind is relaxed—and that is the ideal breeding ground for these phantom sounds.
I can’t guarantee this is the reason in your grandma’s case, but it is the most likely reason.
One way for her to try to overcome these phantom musical sounds is to put some soothing music on the stereo or listen to the radio as she falls asleep. This gives her brain real sounds to listen to, and hopefully the phantom music will fade away.