Hallucinatory Tinnitus

Although not always, as explored below, this condition often means you are experiencing more complex sounds, such music or speech that aren’t coming from an external source, these are often repetitive.

People who experience these sounds tend to have considerable anxiety about them, so you may not feel comfortable discussing them with others. You may feel there is a suggestion of mental instability or psychosis, however this is not the case.

These sounds do not indicate any level of mental illness and can be explained in a rational way. Neil Bauman, PhD. has conducted extensive research into this phenomenon and is the person who coined the term Musical Ear Syndrome in 2004.

There are two forms of auditory hallucination; psychiatric and non-psychiatric.

Psychiatric auditory hallucinations are generally heard as voices that talk to the person and engage them in conversation of a meaningful personal nature. The voices may instruct the person to complete some task. This is a true auditory hallucination of a psychiatric nature and the person should seek medical and mental health care as soon as safely possible.

If the above occurs, do not panic as this may be a side effect of medications. There are over 368 medications and other substances that can cause hallucinations. Older people take more medications than younger ones and may be more likely to have auditory hallucinations as a side effect.

Non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations do not involve voices speaking directly to the person. Usually, this type of auditory hallucination is musical and can even be pleasant. When voices are heard, they are generally vague and indistinct and do not contain personal information. Typically, these voices may sound like a radio broadcast playing in another room.

Depending on their clarity, these sounds may be either unformed, fuzzy and distorted or clearly formed where people hearing them can identify the various voices and musical instruments.

Many people find the sounds begin with clearly formed sentences or songs. After the repetition of lengthy phrases, the sound may degenerate into short snatches of repetitive phrases or even into unformed sounds that are more like the common form of tinnitus.

Musical Ear Syndrome is thought to be brought on when a person’s world becomes too quiet, the brain manufactures its own sounds, based on auditory memories. This is similar to when a stroke in the visual area of the brain causing the brain to produce an image to fill the space and that is inconsistent with reality.

The occurrence of MES has been suggested to be very high among the hearing impaired.

    According to Dr. Bauman, there is a group of conditions that predispose people to hearing MES phantom sounds. These conditions include:

  • The person is often elderly
  • The person is generally hard of hearing
  • The person often lacks adequate auditory stimulation
  • The person usually has tinnitus
  • The person is often anxious, stressed or depressed

An individual does not need to have every condition but many people with Musical Ear Syndrome exhibit three or more of these conditions. Between 10% and 30% of people who are hard of hearing experience Musical Ear Syndrome at one time or another.

In rare cases, brain abnormalities can cause auditory hallucinations.


The focus of treatment for the syndrome is to improve your hearing with hearing aids and to enrich your environment with sound. That way, the brain isn't filling in the gaps with its auditory hallucinations. You can do this with more regular trips into sound filled environments, more exposure to music or sound therapy around the house including with the T-Minus sound therapy.