Musical Ear Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Written by the Nano Hearing Aids Team
Reviewed for Accuracy by Lindsay Roberts, AuD.

Lindsay Roberts
Musical Ear Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

We all had this feeling that a song or music might got stuck in our heads for days or sometime longer. In most cases, we may simply just like this song too much. But, what if it is a medical condition? Musical ear syndrome (MES) occurs when people hear tunes even when there is no music being played. This is a condition where you hear some signing or music when there isn’t any.

Many people get freaked out when they hear this and start wondering if they have dementia or not. Yes, it is very distressing, but you will be glad to know that this is not dementia. Hearing loss is the more probable cause behind your Musical Ear Syndrome (MES).

Knowing this is important as it will affect the patient’s morale when they have Musical Ear Syndrome (MES). Dementia is a severe condition, and if the patient thinks that they have it, they will be a lot more worried.

What is Musical Ear Syndrome (MES)?

Musical Ear Syndrome (MES) is a type of condition that will often result in the person having musical auditory hallucinations. This condition is usually the result of some hearing impairment. MES is not that uncommon, but the worrying thing is that it is diagnosed very rarely. Hearing loss is the most likely culprit here but it is essential to mention that the exact reasons behind the condition are still a mystery.

What is Musical Ear Syndrome

Our brain picks up sounds from environments to make sense of the world around us. When you have impaired hearing, the brain will not carry out this vital function properly. However, It will not ignore this sense completely and hence it may be continuing to get more input.

When the brain cannot get proper input, it will start to fill in these blanks using only what they already know about the world. This can result in the affected person hearing a wide range of sounds. When it comes to MES, the brain will try to fill in these blanks using music.


The first thing to note in terms of symptoms is that most people who have MES also have hearing loss. So, that can be referred to as the primary symptom that may indicate that you are suffering from the condition.

Other than that, as discussed above, the primary indicator that someone may have MES musical sounds that are not present in their environment. So, auditory hallucinations of the musical kind can be termed as another symptom.

Musical Ear Syndrome Causes

While it is true that the exact mechanics of MES are not known, there have still been some identified causes.

Hearing Loss

As long as you do not have hallucinations or other cognitive symptoms, hearing music when there isn’t any is most likely the result of hearing loss. It is important to mention that because the exact cause cannot always be determined, it is very much possible to have MES with other conditions like dementia.

Cochlear implant

Cochlear implants can also be the reason behind someone developing MES. Usually, this will happen during the implantation process or the removal process of the implant. Some people have experienced MES a few days after the implant.

It is important to mention here that the relationship between MES and cochlear implants has not been studied in great detail. This is why there isn’t much information available about the relationship between these two things.


There’s a list of drugs that cause Musical Ear Syndrome and have the ability to cause hallucinations. These hallucinations can also be of the auditory kind. If you have taken some medicines that can cause this, you will hear noises or voices.

It is infrequent that medications will be the main culprit behind MES. However, If you do, however, feel like your medications are making you hear things that are not present in the environment, you should seek professional help immediately.

Musical Ear Syndrome Without Hearing Loss

There are a lot of people who hear faint tinnitus when the environment is tranquil. Therefore, it is not uncommon that someone may listen to a bit of soft music when their environment is quiet. This is the brain trying to fill up your auditory senses when there is a lack of auditory stimulation.

Some people near a constant source of sounds like a fan or an AC often hear some phantom music. Somehow, our brains can take this continuous noise and then modulate it to sound like music.

A few patients have noticed that they hear this phantom music whenever they turn on or off the constant sound source. This is an exceptional kind of Musical Ear Syndrome that may occur even if you don’t have any hearing loss whatsoever.

Impacts of Musical Ear Syndrome

The impact of MES can be pretty dramatic and a bit debilitating. The person suffering from the condition is hearing musical sounds that are not present in their environment. Suffice to say, and this is more than just a minor inconvenience.

People who suffer from this condition can feel like they are social outcasts. Social isolation is one of the worst feelings a human can experience and it can take a toll on their morale and psyche. As we have mentioned before, MES patients hear distinctive musical sounds, and no one but themselves can tell what that non-existent sound makes them feel like. This can take a toll on the person’s social life and hence, their overall quality of life.

One of the worst things about this condition is that it is more common than is diagnosed. This is a significant source of concern. Untreated MES can lead to more severe hearing loss which will present a whole host of new challenges.

Treatment for Musical Ear Syndrome (MES)

If you think that you may be suffering from this condition, it is vital to see your doctor as soon as possible. You must get the correct diagnosis as soon as possible, as that will enable you to seek proper Musical Ear Syndrome cure. A significant thing to note is that there really isn’t any standard therapy model for treating Musical Ear Syndrome (MES) and it is done on a case-by-case basis. 

Hearing Aids

Hearing loss is often the leading cause behind someone getting MES. Therefore, it makes sense that hearing aids can drastically help you get relief from the symptoms of MES. When you can hear, then your brain will stop filling it with unwanted sounds.

CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Credit: Very Well Mind

While it is true that CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) will not help you stop the music, it can, however, allow you to learn to live with the music. When CBT methods are employed, the primary focus is on training you to ignore the music. Research has been able to show that CBT can also help those who have Tinnitus as well.


If your particular case of MES is not due to some issues with medication and you find that absolutely nothing else is working for you, some medications can likely help. We have listed some of the medicines that can help you deal with MES.

It is essential to understand that all kinds of medications have some side effects. Therefore, make sure that you consult your doctor before you start any medication course.

Lifestyle Changes

Although hearing aids and some medications can help, you should also allow yourself more space by employing healthy lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes can help you reduce the severity of the condition.

If you can hear both with and without any hearing aids, you can try to add some noise. While we realize that sounds a bit counterintuitive, it is also true that listening to some music or even background noise can help prevent your brain from starting its orchestra.

Some other things can help you deal with MES better, and they have all been listed below:

There are also some activities that you can use to your advantage to reduce the stress that MES brings.

  • Proper and Regular Exercise
  • Yoga
  • Tai Chi
  • Aromatherapy
  • Massage Therapy

Tips on Prevention and General Ear Care


As we have already mentioned previously, this condition is more common than it is diagnosed. Therefore, there needs to be a lot more awareness with regards to understanding this condition.

When people are more aware of a specific type of condition, they will be more likely to get diagnosed faster and get the proper kind of treatment.

Also, there is the fact that if you are aware of the condition, you will be able to put a name to what is happening to you. That, in itself, can be extremely helpful and therapeutic.

Another important thing is that it makes you aware that you are not the only one suffering from the condition. This can help boost the sufferer’s morale.

Stress Management.

One of the staples of good health is knowing how to manage stress. Stress has been known to make the symptoms of MES a lot worse.
Therefore, if you can manage your stress better, you will minimize the severity of the condition.

There are a lot of things that you can do to lower your stress. This can be something as simple as just doing some deep breathing exercises. Deep breathing can help and relax your body. It will also help you divert your attention away from MES, and thus, it will fade into your background.

More Sounds

More Sounds

MES is directly the result of the deprivation of sound. Therefore, it makes sense that if you give your brain more sounds to deal with, the MES will be reduced. If you are not wearing hearing aids, well, you definitely should. If you have a pair of hearing aids at your disposal, make sure that you wear them as much as possible.

Another good idea is to go out into nature and also to socialize a lot more. The sounds of nature and conversations with other people are great stimuli for your brain.

Medication Adjustment

This may come as a surprise to you, but MES has been listed as a possible side effect of at least 300 medications. This includes medicines that are common and not that well known. One thing that we want to emphasize is that you should never adjust medications by yourself. Only do so when you are under the guidance of a qualified doctor.

Tips For General Ear Care

  • Make sure that you use earplugs or other types of ear protection devices when exposed to loud music.
  • Make sure that you do not listen to loud music from your electronic devices. Do not do so for extended periods.
  • Make sure that the sound of the TV and radio is as low as possible.
  • Take proper precautions if your workplace is too loud.
  • Make sure that the music you listen to in your car is not excessively loud.
  • Never use cotton buds.
  • Do use ear wax solutions.
  • Manage stress
  • Ears should be dry
  • Exercise Regularly

Hearing Aids


One particular point that we are continuously bringing up in this article is that Musical Ear Syndrome is much more common than diagnosed. This means that many people are out there suffering from the condition and letting it get worse. A lot more focus needs to be paid to increase the awareness of this particular condition.

Awareness is fundamental as it can drastically change the lives of people affected by the condition. When it comes to treating this condition, hearing aids are leading the way. Therefore, getting your hearing checked and an appropriate hearing aid, is essential if  you have MES.


Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Can anxiety cause Musical Ear Syndrome (MES)?

Ans: Yes, you can experience musical auditory hallucinations because of anxiety or stress. It's more like to have Musical Ear Syndrome (MES)

Q: How long does Musical Ear Syndrome (MES) last?

Ans: Usually, the symptoms of Musical Ear Syndrome (MES) go away within 16 - 48 hours. But in severe cases, it may take up to 1 to 2 weeks.


Nano Hearing Aids has strict sourcing guidelines and draws only from peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical journals and associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial privacy policy.

Noro Psikiyatr Ars. 2016 Mar; 53(1): 91.
Published online 2016 Mar 1. doi: 10.5152/npa.2015.8815

Berrios GE, Brook P. The Charles Bonnet Syndrome and the problems of visual perceptual disorder in the elderly. Age Ageing. 1982;11:17–23
[Google Scholar] [PubMed]

Low WK, Tham CA, D’Souza VD, Teng SW. Musical ear syndrome in adult cochlear implant patients. J Laryngol Otol. 2013;127:854–858.
[Google Scholar] [PubMed]

Korean J Audiol. 2013 Dec; 17(3): 101–104.
Published online 2013 Dec 13. doi: 10.7874/kja.2013.17.3.101

Heller AJ. Classification and epidemiology of tinnitus. Otolaryngol Clin North Am. 2003;36:239–248
[Google Scholar] [PubMed]

Reading next

Cookie-Bite Hearing Loss: Reasons Behind It, the Treatments
Complete Guide to Invisible Hearing Aids for Tinnitus