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Hearing Disorders Message Board

Hearing Disorders Board Index

First, I must say I don't know much about distorted hearing. However, i know that something as simple as the common cold or a passing virus can cause it. You could have some virus that's not causing other symptoms, but will pass and you'll forget you ever had a problem. It's most likely that your distorted hearing will be short term and resolve without intervention.

When I first got distorted hearing, music on CDs sounded really out of tune. At first I thought there was something wrong with the CD I was listening to. Then when I changed the CD I thought there was something wrong with the CD player. When music on my friend's stereo sounded just as clashing and horrid, I finally realised it was my ears that had the problem. That was my only symptom for about a week and then I became really sick. (see my other posts if you want more detail there). But as far as my distorted hearing went, it got worse and worse. People's voices sounded like cartoon characters, I couldn't recognise people's voices on the phone, everyday sounds didn't sound as they should. I could hear the TV but not understand a lot of what was being said because of the distortion, but the effect on music was the worst. It was unbearable to listen to. With that distortion I was also rapidly losing my hearing due to a very unusual autoimmune illness.

If I were you, I'd see a doctor about it, just to be on the safe side. Maybe get a hearing test too. Because if it's only effecting 1 ear, it's harder for you to notice if you've lost any hearing. If you get any worsening of symptoms see a doctor immediately.

Oh, and yes, my distortion has gone, so there is hope!!
I'm suffering from exactly the same problem (except sounds other than certain musical instruments sound perfectly normal--other than my own voice and other's voices when I hold the phone to my left ear). I am a professional performing singer-songwriter, playing guitar and dulcimer, and this is driving me nuts (I've been able to fake it onstage thus far--I'm not misperceiving vocal pitch--so audiences don't suspect). It started a little over two weeks ago when I felt I was coming down with a cold ("tired" feeling in back of throat, sinus pressure, slight fever). Thought I nipped the cold in the bud with Sudafed, echinacea, vit. C and the Claritin I have to take for my allergies. But exactly two weeks ago I was watching "Jeopardy," and noticed the theme song was flat and distorted. By nightfall, I couldn't abide the sounds of stringed instruments or pianos--anything with attack transients and long decay times (sorry, you non-musicians). Thurs. called my family doc, who was not in. My husband (cardiologist) wrote me a scrip for Biaxin, since I have a history of sinus infections. I held off on filling it. .
The next day, I excitedly took delivery of a new Martin guitar and couldn't wait to play it--others on various guitar forums had raved about the tone. I tuned it up and it was HORRIBLE! Chords clashed, I heard the scratchy metallic sound of the strings but not the resonant tones of the wood. Took out my other guitars and they all sounded the same! My ears kept telling me they were out of tune but my electronic tuner told me they were spot-on. Made an appt. at a blue-chip teaching hospital with the only ENT who could see me that day. The ENT said my left eardrum was retracted but he didn't see evidence of bacterial infection--deduced I had a clogged eustachian tube and prescribed Sudafed, Claritin, Afrin and some nameless nasal steroid spray he gave me; plus frequent yawning and swallowing. I asked him why the pitch distortion, and he shrugged and said "must be something going on in the cochlea." (Oh, goody--after only a couple of hrs. online, I already knew more about the anatomy of pitch than my own ENT--who I later found out had just finished his residency!). Said he'd never heard of this before. Searching the net showed precious little about the pathophysiology of pitch misperception--only the biomechanics of normal pitch perception.
It got worse. Had to play four gigs that weekend--got through them only because the PA speakers rolled off the higher frequencies and fattened the sound of my guitar to where it didn't sound so bad and I could easily match my voice to it. But I was at a folk festival and could not jam unplugged--the sound of acoustic guitars, mandolins, and especially autoharps and hammer dulcimers (I play lap) set my teeth on edge. Followed my husband's advice and started a 7-day course of Biaxin, which helps a bit. But it seemed to get worse when my Sudafed kicked in, so I discontinued that and the nasal sprays. I was beginning to suspect patulous eustachian tube because of the weird "synth" octave doubling effect I was hearing with my own voice and the phone--especially since I'd just had a (hard-earned) major weight loss, almost always a precursor. The sensation of fullness, mild tinnitus, etc. fit the puzzle--except pitch distortion isn't cited as a symptom.
I posted my problem to the guitar forums and the women musican list I'm on, and found several folks who'd had this--but all after ear infections that had first left them temporarily deaf. One gave me the name of her ENT in Seattle who works with musicians, and he referred me to a neurotologist here in Chicago. Saw him a couple of days ago. My audiogram is off the charts--he says I have the keenest hearing he's ever seen in an adult, amazing for someone who used to play in rock bands. I can detect frequencies so high and at such low volumes that it's practically dog-whistle territory. He saw very little eardrum retraction, and suspects either a clogged or patulous tube. But he's more concerned it's in the inner ear or worse, the brain, so I had an MRI yesterday to rule in or out tumor or Meniere's. They let me take the films home.
The MRI does show one tube wide open and the other one constricted (can't tell which, since I don't know whether the scan was head-on or from the back), and on the narrower side, my semicircular canals located several cm. higher than on the other. The wide open tube looks solid white, with fringes at the end emptying into the middle ear. Obviously, either one tube is patulous or the other clogged--it'll be up to the neurotologist to interpret that and tell me. I can't see tumors, but that doesn't mean they're not there. But it's looking more and more that this is taking place in the ear and not the brain. Let's hope.
Oddly, distorted rock guitar (sweet, warm tube or grungy crunch) sounds fine, especially played in blues scales, as does harmonica and trumpet. Low-pitched stuff like bass or cello is fine too. Vocals sound great, no dissonance in harmonies. I'm beginning to suspect that my unusually enhanced ultrahigh-frequency perception is causing me to hear the sound of fingers or picks on strings (and hammers on piano strings and bows on violin strings) as actual pitches--which clash with the true harmonics of the strings, which is why I'm hearing such dissonance. Now all that remains to be found out is why that is happening, and how long it will last. Everyone I know got over it a week to a few months later.
I will post more when I learn more from the neurotologist and/or when I improve.

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