by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A grandaughter wrote:
My grandmother is 93 years old. She is deaf in one ear and uses a hearing aid in the other. For the past month she has been calling and complaining about the upstairs neighbor and all the noise and “music that goes on all night long.” We have complained to the management company that runs the senior’s complex about the noisy neighbor because my grandmother is completely sane and not suffering from any kind of dementia in any way.
We believed her and supported her allegations until I finally stayed overnight with her on several occasions. Within an hour of going to sleep, she would awake abruptly, get up and tell me to listen to the horrible music. There was nothing! I could not hear a thing.
This happened regularly every hour or so. Again and again she got me up to hear it now! Always, there was nothing. When I told her there was nothing, she was furious. She told me there was something wrong with me!
I began to think that dementia of some sort was finally, after 93 years, beginning to affect her–until I found the article on MES on your web site. Whew! What an incredible relief to find out that her Musical Ear syndrome is real.
Is there a remedy for this?
As you now know, these musical sounds are totally real to the person “hearing” them. This is because they occur in the auditory circuits in the brain where a person perceives sound. Thus these phantom sounds are absolutely indistinguishable from real sounds.
That is why your grandmother was acting totally rational (to her), and at the same time seemed to be acting totally irrational (to you).
I think you can now understand her confusion. The music sounds real and wakes her up–yet it is totally phantom.
What is the remedy?
Perhaps the most important thing you can do is to explain to your grandmother what is really going on. Explain that she is neither going crazy, nor does she have some dreadful brain tumor. These are the two biggest fears of people who experience Musical Ear syndrome.
Just setting these two fears at rest goes a long ways towards bringing peace of mind to such people.
You can explain that her brain is playing “tricks” on her, and that she needs to realize that music she hears in the night is almost certainly phantom no matter how real it sounds. (After all, she does live in a senior’s complex where people are typically quiet.) She needs to use logic now to try and determine if a sound is real or not, rather than just accepting sounds at face value.
In my book, “Phantom Voices, Ethereal Music & Other Spooky Sounds,” I explain 7 other things you (and she) can do in order to help bring her phantom sounds under control.
In addition, by reading it, or you reading selected portions to her, she will discover that she isn’t the only one experiencing these phantom sounds. She’ll feel right at home as she hears about the many other people that have similarly strange experiences.