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Woman Tormented With ‘Musical Hallucination’

Auditory Disorders, Hallucinating Noises, Musical Hallucination

Sixty-three-year-old Susan Root has suffered three years with a “musical hallucination,” an extremely rare condition.

The song, “How Much is that Doggie in the Window,” performed by Patti Page has played in a seemingly constant, unending loop in her head. Root describes the sensation akin to having a radio you can’t turn off, the Daily Mail reports.

Root is periodically tormented with other tunes, enduring recurrent earworms like “God Save the Queen” and “Happy Birthday.” Earworms, songs trapped in your head, are typically those with cheerful or easy lyrics and upbeat tempos.

An auditory hallucination (paracusia) is a form of delusion that involves perceiving sounds without external auditory stimulus. Typically this condition is associated with individuals suffering from psychotic disorders like schizophrenia or mania where they claim to hear voices. But Root does not suffer from a psychotic disorder.

The phenomenon of musical imagery repetition and involuntary musical imagery of earworms are distinguished from brain damage associated with palinacousis.

Palinacousis is an auditory form of perseveration, or continuing to hear a sound after the physical noise has disappeared. The condition often develops due to lesions of the temporal lobe (brain).

Technically, Root is not plagued with this condition either.

Root’s three years of sleepless nights was caused by a sudden onset of a rare form of tinnitus (musical hallucination). The disorder produces the sensation of music. Tinnitus is the perception of sound within the human ear in the absence of corresponding external stimulus.

Tinnitus is normally just a ringing or buzzing in the ears. Tinnitus is not a disease but an underlying condition associated with another physical issue. It can result from a wide range of causes associated with neurological damage, infections of the ear, and sinus fluid drainage. Prolonged exposure to high volume sounds can also cause persistent tinnitus. It may be an accompaniment of sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), congenital hearing loss, or a side effect of taking certain medications. Perceived sounds can be constant and linger faintly as background noise.

Medical professionals in Root’s case are bewildered as to how to treat the problem. She had tried using a hearing aid in hopes of lessening the problem, but it failed to resolve her maddening hearing issue.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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