Musical Ear syndrome, Tinnitus and the paranormal
Our brains are very complex. We know how much it tends to work against us in almost every way. A common example would be what we call visual pareidolia or matrixing. It is why we see faces in clouds etc. It is a commonly referred to phenomena in the paranormal field as often when we look at grainy photos, we tend to see faces. People who are not necessarily aware of the phenomena will look at this face and feel it is a spirit or something paranormal haunting their photos, especially if they were feeling something at the same time the photo was taken. I have actually seen people mistakenly referring to pareidolia as a phobia. It isn't a phobia at all. In simple terms, the brain is looking at something that it finds confusing. We are always looks for patterns so if it sees something grainy for example, it tries to make sense of it. This is why we will see a face. It is not limited to a visual phenomena. There is an auditory version referred to as audio pareidolia where again we hear things that aren't really there. A common example would be when listening to a recording. In the static noise, we often feel like we are hearing voices. The reality is again our brain cannot made sense of just the static noise, so it tricks us into thinking we are hearing something else.
Musical Ear Syndrome
Often on a paranormal investigation, someone will hear music. It is often like a classical style, like a piano for example but it can be anything. Given that a lot of the locations normally have a piano somewhere in the building, it is often assumed that perhaps it is a spirit's way of making itself known. Perhaps they are playing the piano. Perhaps it is all a part of a residual playback at a location. I have been to many locations where there are reports of music playing. In fact during an investigation once, we all heard what sounded like music coming from another room. There was no one in there and we couldn't find the source.
Another explanation for this phenomena is what is called 'Musical Ear Syndrome'. Musical Ear Syndrome is described as a form of auditory hallucination. It is important to understand that even though the word hallucination is used, it is not a psychiatric disorder. It is caused mainly by forms of hearing loss. When the brain hears a phantom sound, it tries to make sense of it - much in the same way as pareidolia works. It is also interesting because it is a sound that the person is hearing, yet others are not hearing the sound. This is why in many cases a person may report hearing music in a location, yet it is not captured on a recording and no one else can hear it. To the person, it sounds like it is far away, almost like a neighbour is playing music or it is coming from another room. It is faint. It is not loud and overbearing in a person's head.
It is estimated that approximately 5% of the population suffer from this syndrome, however a lot of people think they are 'crazy' when they hear music and don't necessarily seek help so the number is thought to be higher. Again it is not a psychiatric condition. While there are some instances where it can be related to a person's mental health, it is most commonly presented in people that have suffered from some form of hearing loss.
How does one differentiate Musical Ear Syndrome to something potentially paranormal? The first question to ask is if the music is limited to just one person or if a whole group can hear it (also being aware of the power of suggestion is important too). I always recommend at least filming every investigation, not as a tool to potentially capture paranormal activity, but as a way to have an unbiased account of what is really happening. Did the music appear on the recording? If it was a very real sound, it should be captured on tape. If it is something that is limited to just one person, Musical Ear Syndrome is a possible candidate here. If they are hearing very loud distinct music that doesn't sound like it is coming from far away, that is not typical of Musical Ear Syndrome and could be another explanation.
Tinnitus is a really annoying condition. I know because I suffer from it. It is described as a ringing sound, yet others hear it as a buzzing, clicking or something similar to crickets. It is caused from a few different things, with the most common being exposed to loud noise over a period of time. For me all those rock concerts where I loved being up the front next to the speakers weren't the greatest idea. Mine is quite mild and usually only bothers me at night time when I am trying to sleep and I can go days or weeks where I don't notice it. It is at night that it causes a person the most distress. When you don't have the distraction of every day noise etc and you are in silence, it is more common to hear this ringing in your ear. It is a sound that is being produced only to you. If you were to do a recording for example. it will not pick it up as it is essentially 'in your head'. The difference being though that it is a very real sound that you are hearing and not something you are making up. In order to treat this, a lot of people listen to white noise or environmental sounds as a distraction. This can be interesting in itself as white noise has an effect on the brain as well which I covered previously - The effects of white noise
One thing I have heard many times and even experienced myself is that only one ear will start ringing quite randomly. Some people say that this means a change is frequency and that a spirit is nearby. I honestly don't know if there is truth to this, but as someone that suffers from tinnitus, when it happens to me, I have to write it off as tinnitus as I know it is something I suffer from and it comes and goes randomly every day. When you suffer from some form of hearing loss, your brain is not getting the stimulation it needs to process information. So again in the same way it searches for images when it comes to visual pareidolia, it searches internally to get these sounds and produces in my case that ringing noise.
I recently finished watching the Netflix series the OA pat 2. It is a series that looks at NDE's and multi dimensions. I am not going to spoil anything for you, but there was a particular moment that inspired this article actually. People who had 'jumped' from one dimension to another suffered from Tinnitus. It was due to a change in frequency in the dimensions - according to the tv show. People who had jumped could actually hear another person's ears ringing and that is how they knew if someone else had jumped. None of this is fact of course, it is based on a fictional tv show, however I found this to be quite interesting. It was interesting because I hear all the time about people perceiving ringing ears as a frequency change and a spirit manifesting. It makes me wonder when we look at the paranormal. I have asked the question if perhaps a ghost is part of multi dimensions and the presence we are picking up is in fact others in another dimension (something which the tv show the OA alludes to as well). It made me think of a few things anyway. Again it is a fictional tv show but it made me think.
Pressure changes in the ear
Sometimes the ringing in one ear that I mentioned above, can also present to people as a pop. You know that awful feeling when you are on an aeroplane and there is a change in the cabin pressure. Your ears feel blocked and suddenly there is a ‘pop’ feeling. This is due to the cabin pressure changing. This can happen to people in every day circumstances – including when they are investigating the paranormal.
When this happens, the pressure change is thought by some to be a change of energy in the room or that something is trying to communicate with you. A lot of sensitive people use this as an indication that they are not alone. While this could be the case, it could also be Ear barotrauma. This is a condition that causes discomfort due to pressure changes that makes them feel more prominent. While some people may not notice pressure changes at all, to others it can end up being uncomfortable and even painful.
Another common thing that can happen to anyone is the eustachian tube which connects your middle ear to your throat and nose can become blocked. If you have a cold or suffer from hayfever or even prone to ear infections, it can cause this tube to become blocked. This will give you the same sensation as if you are on an aeroplane. What is another side effect is that it can also cause you to feel unbalanced, feel like you are rocking on a boat, light headed and faint. These are also symptoms that can be interpreted to be paranormal. When you think about it, a lot of these old places are old and there is a lot of dust. You are out in the cold - particularly during winter and it could easily cause this phenomena.
One of the biggest things to consider when one of the above happens on an investigation is if the experience is limited to just one person. Are there other things happening at the same time that indicate something is happening or is a person relying on these feelings alone? If we are able to measure changes in the atmopshere it can potentially explain a pop at least, but what if the figures don't change? What if there is something happening here? It is one of those things where again as a paranormal investigator you need to be aware, but also open. If you experience one of the above phenomena, you have to ask yourself: Do my ears ring at night when I am at home in bed? Is it possible I have suffered from a form of hearing loss? Have I ever heard music playing before? Did others experience it or was it just me?
Sometimes things happen that we just can't explain. Just because there is an explanation for something, doesn't mean that this is what was happening at the time. I guess that is up to us to figure out. In the end, there are things we don't understand. Nikola Tesla said it best:
Is it all a part of what we don't understand or is it our brain? That is know what I am constantly searching for answers for. Do you suffer from any of these conditions? Have you had an experience on an investigation where you have heard music or your ear popped or started ringing? Tell me about it below!
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