The tune which pops into your head and won’t go away is maddening enough — but imagine if the music in your head sounded as real as if the musicians were sitting beside you.
Even worse, if the music was discordant, unrecognisable as a tune.
‘It’s as if the choir is in the room with you and you have no means of making them stop,’ says Tina Lannin, a 42-year-old from London who suffered from this for nearly 30 years.
‘One night, I was kept awake by what sounded like a drunken choir singing Away In A Manger.
‘Sometimes it was a rock concert, and sometimes classical music or opera.
‘At times there were singers, and at other times, just instruments. But it never sounded right.
‘Although it’s music, it’s not harmonious or structured, and usually I couldn’t recognise what it was.’
Tina is describing a surprisingly common condition, musical ear syndrome.
It is a form of tinnitus, a condition that affects one in ten of us.
But while tinnitus is usually a buzzing, ringing or whistling sound in the ear, without any obvious source, in some people it takes the form of phantom music.
Around 90 per cent of those with the condition develop it as a result of hearing loss, says Tim Griffiths, professor of cognitive neurology at Newcastle University.
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