Tinnitus can be a mysterious phenomenon. Although we often describe it as “ringing in the ears,” the actual sound tinnitus sufferers hear varies. People report roaring, buzzing, rustling, and even talking. Some people may experience such complex sounds that they can recognize the music playing. At this point, it is often described as a “music hallucination.”

One 69-year old math teacher with this condition has helped researchers better understand how tinnitus becomes such a complicated phenomenon.

It Began as Tinnitus

Dublin_Philharmonic_Orchestra_performing_Tchaikovsky's_Symphony_No_4_in_Charlotte,_North_CarolinaThe math teacher said she didn’t always have music playing in her head. At first, she just heard a single tone. Later on, other tones began to join the first. She says that these first tones were all in a minor key, which made them “very depressing.”

To attempt to understand and combat her condition, she began using her musical training to note the music she heard. One of the challenges tinnitus sufferers face is accusations that they’re just making it up or should just ignore the sound. Although there is no external source, the sounds heard in tinnitus are very real to the brain.

As she worked with her notations, she found that she was starting to recognize some of the music. She was hearing Gilbert and Sullivan operas as well as music by Bach. She found that she could actually suppress the music in her head by listening to music out loud, and listening to music helped influence the music she heard in her head.

It’s in the Brain

The existence of the sounds was confirmed by imaging of the woman’s brain, which showed that areas associated with musical memory and interpretation of music were lighting up, even though there was no music to be heard.

The brain is trained to recognize sounds and patterns, and often, when there is no pattern, it makes one. If you’ve ever been in bed in a quiet house and thought you heard voices or the TV on, you’ve experienced this phenomena, as your brain tried to make faint or distant noises.

Musical hallucinations are similarly a product of the brain, beginning usually with the sound created by tinnitus, though they may be associated with brain tumors, unusual blood vessels in the brain, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, and more.

Don’t forget to report other symptoms, such as dizziness, headaches, general fatigue, memory problems, and others, to receive an accurate diagnosis.

TMJ treatment can eliminate tinnitus in many cases. You don’t have to live with it as it increases in volume, complexity, or negative impact.

To learn more, please contact Smile Columbia Dentistry in Columbia, SC today.