Posts Tagged ‘stuck songs’

Earlier this year another victim of this stuck-music condition, which is often called “earworms,” contacted me in desperation. Her husband suffers earworms so bad he often bangs his head against the wall in an effort to quiet them. Or maybe it’s an attempt to bash them out of his head. In any case, my heart broke to hear about how terribly they both were suffering because of this maddening phenomenon.

I pulled out my old research and the stories I’ve collected from victims over the years. My intention is to document the phenomenon and then try again to find researchers with the interest, skills and capabilities to take all this accumulated information and test the chemical/hormonal hypothesis, or at least take the research in more helpful (for us) directions.

In an effort to describe in words what the experience is like for those of us being driven mad by the earworms, I recalled a recent vacation roadtrip with my husband in which we listened to several music CDs in the car and at the cabin in the mountains. I won’t even mention the artist whose double-CD ended up playing in my head for weeks (and now months) after the trip.  But since then, my earworms have grown much worse.

If you’ve read my posts, you know that for the past 10 years or so I had effectively silenced my earworms by balancing my hormones (through the use of bio-identical hormones) and taking a supplement that reduces cortisol. But, as the story of our roadtrip reveals, the earworms are coming back, and they are disruptive at times.

Curiously, I’ve also been having issues with my hormones, specifically my estrogen patches, for the past year or more, since my doctor switched me to the generic patches. Whereas the original patches used to last 4 to 6 days, the generic patch wore off within 2 days, sometimes less. Last fall, the doctor approved my use of the brand-name patches again, but even those don’t last as long as they used to.

The hormone problems and the earworms’ return are almost certainly connected.

My current goal is to find and contact researchers who are already interested in this phenomenon. There are quite a few more studies and researchers now than there were some 10 years ago when I began my quest. Unfortunately, none of them seem to be looking at chemical causes. However, I am encouraged because several of the researchers seem to be serious about discovering the cause(s) of the earworms and treatments/techniques to get rid of them. Several papers mention that the authors are looking for testable hypotheses that might shed more light on this phenomenon. Well, I just happen to have one.

So I am about to contact as many researchers as I can find. If any of them agree to study the chemistry of earworms, I would like to connect them with those of you who have this condition…with your permission, of course.

Meanwhile, I wanted to get the word out to all of you and ask you to please send me your earworm stories, if you haven’t already.  If you wish to be anonymous, just let me know and I will pass along only your story, without your name or contact information.

You can contact me by email at hormonebook (at) yahoo (dot) com  Share whatever information you think is relevant.

Please answer the following specific questions if you can:

  1. When did the earworms start? How old were you and what were the circumstances in your life and health at the time they first started?
  2. What exposure have you had to brain-altering drugs (anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, anti-seizure meds) before or during the earworms? Did any drugs stop the earworms?
  3. What effect does stress or emotional excitement (good or bad) have on the earworms?
  4. How “loud” or disruptive are the earworms?
  5. What, if anything, affects the earworms, brings them on/makes them “louder” or makes them fade away? (Actions/”tricks,” foods, supplements, etc.)
  6. What sex are you?
  7. Do you take any hormones? If so specify.
  8. Are you thirsty a lot?
  9. Do you have diabetes?
  10. How long have you had the earworms?
  11. If they come and go, please describe the length of the episodes and describe any circumstances that seem associated with the earworms being on versus off.
  12. Can you control the earworms (turn them on/off)? If yes, please describe how.
  13. Would you be willing to communicate with researchers about your earworm experiences?
  14. Would you be willing to participate in lab studies (brain scans, blood/saliva tests, etc.) investigating earworms?

Thank you all for following my blog and for sharing your experiences. I will do whatever I can to find relief for us all!

As always, wishing you peace and quiet.



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I just finished reading a doctor’s book about natural remedies. In it he covers the issue of OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).

For what it’s worth to you all, he suggests taking 5-HTP (an amino acid precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin) and inositol (a member of the B vitamin family) to help reduce OCD symptoms.

If the AMLs are, as my neurologist and others believe, a form of OCD, then maybe these supplements will help some of us.

This doctor recommends a high dose of inositol (18 grams per day), which you’d have to mix into food or drinks by the teaspoon. But I have found reports of studies showing no side effects of inositol in those taking high doses successfully to treat anxiety, OCD, panic disorder, depression and agoraphobia.

He does not specify the dose of 5-HTP, but I have seen this substance pop up as a solution to other problems. The dosage typically runs between 50 and 100 mg (taken in the evening when used to promote sleep). It appears that 5-HTP is widely used in Europe to aid sleep, suppress the appetite and reduce depression. 

On a WebMD discussion thread, I found that most users experienced a reduction in their symptoms (OCD, insomnia, depression, fibromyalgia, cravings for cigarettes/food). However, one woman who took 50 mg of 5-HTP experienced some side effects she terms “scary” (tingling rush, sweating palms, lightheadedness) that peaked after about 5 minutes and left her feeling weird into the next day. She admitted it stopped her food cravings, but the side effects were unacceptable.

Being the one person who always overreacts to drugs and other substances or gets side effects nobody ever gets, I am always extremely cautious when taking something new. I start at the lowest dose possible to see how it will affect me. If the low dose of 50 mg 5-HTP gave this one woman so much trouble, I will probably break open the 50 mg capsule (if I even try the 5-HTP) and will take only half (25 mg) for my first dose…maybe even less.

Just as a reminder, be sure to check with your doctor before experimenting with any possible solutions.

And if you do try either or both of these solutions, please let us know how they work for you. 

Wishing you peace and quiet.


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In case you haven’t seen the recent comments from a fellow sufferer, we may now have a few new leads to pursue in our search for cause and cure for the broken record thing (or AMLs/auditory memory loops).

Like me, J discovered that cortisol and stress seemed to have an effect on the AMLs, making them worse.

But unlike any of the rest of us (that I know of) J also made a connection between his gut problems and the AMLs. Turns out he had a couple of parasites that had been causing IBS symptoms.

Now, I have assumed all along that it can’t be cortisol alone, since most of us have had stressful times without getting AMLs. My assumption is that something must change us at some point to make us susceptible to the AML effects of cortisol. But I didn’t know what, since each of us has come into this problem through different doors.

In my case it was hormonal changes at menopause. For another sufferer it came after the birth of her second baby. For still others it starts after a traumatic period in their lives or after taking an antidepressant, or for no apparent reason at all. And then there’s the 6-year-old boy who may have had it all his life.

So here we have J who says his AMLs started after he’d begun having gut issues. He also noticed that he had allergy symptoms/runny nose when the AMLs were worse, suggesting histamine was involved. And when he takes antihistamines (and large doses of vitamin C and magnesium) the symptoms ease up.

I’ve just recently learned that histamine is responsible for stimulating the release of stomach acid to digest food, as well as creating those inflammatory reactions to allergens we’re more familiar with. I don’t know how to connect the dots yet, but this may be meaningful.

J finally learned that his gut problems were caused by a couple of parasites:  Blastocystis Hominis and Dientamoeba Fragilis. And when he completed treatment to get rid of them, the AMLs subsided. It’s not clear from his comment whether the AMLs completely went away.

He does say that he believes the parasites were not the direct trigger for the AMLs, but rather the stress of the infection and his body’s reaction to the parasites may have been the actual trigger.  This may fit in with those whose AMLs have started after some form of traumatic/stressful event.

As it turns out, I’d had some gut tests myself a few years back and I hoped the parasite angle might be a fresh clue in this mystery. But when I checked my test results I found that I did not have any parasites. So I’m back to the assumption that it may not be the specific triggering event that matters, only that our bodies respond to a variety of events in the same way.

So we may or may not not have a new clue, but perhaps a few more tools for fighting this madness: antihistamines, high doses of vitamin C and magnesium, for dealing with the histamine/allergy issues…plus the Relora and phosphatidyl serine to suppress cortisol.

I’ll do more research and hope to hear more from J.

Wishing you all peace…and quiet.   -Pat

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A lady named Dana contacted me about a month ago. Her 6-year-old son apparently suffers from the stuck music (AMLs). She does not know exactly how long he’s had this issue because he’s only recently developed the ability to express what’s going on inside his head.

Until fairly recently, he had assumed that everyone had stuck music in their heads. He has had the AMLs for some time, but is only now wanting them to go away.

For years, Dana had thought her son might have a hearing problem because he was always shouting and wanting to turn up the volume on the TV and radio. But multiple hearing tests have come up normal. As a sufferer myself, I told her that I could absolutely understand why a child sufferer might try to “turn up the volume” on the real world thinking the external noise could override or drown out the noise in his head.

Then she told me something very curious and critically important from a diagnostic standpoint: Her son is an identical twin. But his brother does NOT have the AMLs.

So I asked her if there are any obvious differences between the two boys. The key differences she noted were that the AML sufferer: (a) craves carbs, and (b) is excessively thirsty.

I knew the carb craving was an indication of insulin resistance (which could be the result of high cortisol levels).

And I knew the excessive thirst was also a symptom of something, but I needed to do some research before I said anything to Dana. It turned out that, in the TV show I recalled seeing, the patient’s thirst was the final clue to her diagnosis of Cushing’s syndrome, which is a condition involving high cortisol levels.

When I told Dana (who is a nurse) what I’d discovered, she agreed that taking her boys to an endocrinologist might be a good next step. I’m hoping to hear back from her after they get the results of the boys’ labs.

If the doctor finds that the AML-suffering twin has much higher cortisol levels than the normal twin, then theoretically he can find an appropriate treatment to suppress the cortisol production. 

However, in doing some more research, I found that many of the current cortisol blocking agents are as bad as, or worse than, the problem they intend to treat. One blocks the development of all steroid hormones (which we need to survive). Another reduces cortisol by destroying parts of the adrenal glands. Not good choices, in my opinion.

In any case, I believe that if we can find a researcher willing and able to study these two boys to see what’s different about them, I think we can significantly advance the state of our knowledge about this condition.

And, ideally, we can help get one little boy back to normal. I’ll report if I hear more about this curious case.

Have a great weekend!

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My broken record (BR) or auditory memory loops (AMLs) started in my late 40s. First I noticed that I had little stuck songs more often, mainly after I played a favorite over and over. But like always they faded after a day or so.

Then one day I realized couldn’t get them out of my head. It was as if my brain was a music magnet and everything would get stuck.

Around the age of 48-49, after a year of dealing with the worst of it (couldn’t hear my own thoughts, couldn’t sleep), I went to the doctor to ask if this might be a symptom of menopause. He sarcastically said, “Either you have a thyroid problem or a brain tumor…and you don’t have a brain tumor!” But to shut me up he tested my sex hormones as well as thyroid hormones.

Turned out my thyroid hormones were normal…but the sex hormones were seriously low. So, yes, I was hormonally menopausal.

He put me on Prempro, the horse-estrogen and fake-progesterone drug that at the time was the gold standard for hormone replacement therapy (HRT). This was before the big WHI study said the stuff is really bad for you. (Duh.) Curiously, this bad drug stopped the music in my head. So it was a matter of good news / bad news.

Thinking I’d discovered that it was indeed the low or imbalanced sex hormones that caused the BR/AMLs, I boldly proceeded to switch from those nasty alien hormones in Prempro to the more natural approach of using bioidentical hormones. These are hormones that are chemically identical to those nature gave us.

Well, they were good for me in most ways. But sadly, the more natural hormones didn’t stop the BR/AMLs.

Since that time, I’ve developed the cortisol hypothesis written about in previous posts. The hypothesis began when I was writing my book, What Part of Menopause Don’t You Understand?  I thought about how real/bioidentical progesterone differs from fake progesterone (Provera or MPA). The key difference is that the real/bioidentical stuff can break down into cortisol. The fake stuff can’t.

Not everybody I’ve talked to can make a connection between high stress (with high cortisol levels) and the triggering or increase of the BR/AMLs, but probably 80% can. Some seem to have first noticed the AMLs after a traumatic event or situation in their lives. For some, it seems the BR/AMLs started when they took one of those very same antidepressants that are given to try and quiet the AMLs (however, the need for those meds may have been preceeded by a traumatic or stressful situation that might have been the real cause).

But I suspect there is also another factor in addition to cortisol involved. After all, I know I faced stress many times in my life before age 50. So something else changed after 50 that made stress cause my brain to become “sticky.” Maybe there’s too much of the enzyme that converts progesterone to cortisol, or too little of the one that converts progesterone to estrogen and testosterone. Maybe there’s something new in my brain, maybe low or high neurotransmitters, or something physical like a lesion acting like a leaky faucet.  That’s what we need a researcher to figure out.

Anyway, that’s how my nightmare started.

How and when did your music magnet turn on?

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