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musical hallucinations

Hello Bill et al,

The description your colleague gave is in line with many other
descriptions. Musical hallucinations tend to be of religious or
patriotic songs (such as are 'Amazing Grace' or 'The Battle Hymn of
the Republic'), and less often of folk tunes. They are most
frequently experienced as singing by male voices - often male choirs
or choruses - and less frequently as orchestral music. They  most
often occur in elderly people who have some hearing loss; however,
this is just a statistic, and people of all ages can experience them.
They can be triggered by medications, such as high doses of aspirin
and beta blockers, and they are typically so vivid that sufferers
initially believe that the music is being played on a radio, through
a P.A. system, or outside on the street. As your colleague described,
the music that is 'heard' is superimposed on other sounds, including
other music, and comes and goes unexpectedly.

I am in the initial stages of a study of musical hallucinations, and
would be very interested to hear about any other such cases.

Best wishes,


Hello Auditory Gang,

The following report comes from a retired colleague (male) who gave
permission for this distribution. I promised to collect comments that
you might have and send them on to him. It seems like an interesting case.

Best wishes,
Bill Hartmann

"I have a loss of hearing of about 25% in my right ear.  A few weeks ago I was
sitting at home alone when I began to hear music which appeared to be
associated with my right ear. The music was mostly simple songs such as
patriotic tunes or religious songs, sometimes a few bars of classical music. A
tune repeats itself for a while and then changes to another."

"What is interesting about this is not the repetition.  I have had tunes hung
in my head before, which I suppose is very common.  My previous experience
with repeating tunes has only involved one tune at a time. I have not had this
one tune experience in decades.  What is different this time is that this
music appears to play in the background all of the time, independent of what I
am doing.  It doesn't prevent any activities. I can become involved in
activities and forget about it.  However, as soon as these activities cease
the music reappears in the middle of some tune.  The reappearance is
because I am not thinking about the music in any way whatsoever.  The tune is
different from the one that I ceased to hear when I began the activity. The
music appears to switch from background to foreground whenever the outside
sound has low volume.  For example, I am now sitting alone at the computer and
can hear it quite clearly. I can talk aloud to myself and still hear the tune
in the background."

"Associated with the music is a simple harmonic sound.  The frequency is about
that of a trombone.  It rises and lowers as if the trombone were slurring up
and down the scale. The range is about one octave. The sound is somewhat
"buzzy" like an old fluorescent light."

"The music and the accompanying sound are heard at all times independent of
where I am.   Another oddity is that the tunes increase in volume when I am
driving on the expressway. This is very peculiar because the tunes appear to
feed upon the noise of the expressway, which is just the opposite of what they
normally do.  Usually when outside noise increases the tunes disappear. Of
course on the expressway a lot of the noise that I hear is periodic associated
with the engine and tires, not white noise."

"My only medicinal change is that I started taking a diuretic
several days to a
week before the music and harmonic sound began.  I am on a large number of
medications but have been on them for quite a while.  I have had high blood
pressure for many years which is controlled by lotensin. The only person in my
family who has had hearing problems is my older brother.  He had Meniere's
disease and finally lost hearing in one ear.  He often felt ill and off
balance.  I have not experienced this."


Diana Deutsch
Professor of Psychology
Department of Psychology
University of California, San Diego
La Jolla, CA 92093, USA

858-453-1558 (tel)
858-453-4763 (fax)