A tormented pensioner told today how a rare brain condition has caused the festive tune Silent Night to play repeatedly in her head – for two years.
Frustrated Cath Gamester, 84, suffers from musical ear syndrome which causes her to experience ‘auditory hallucinations’.
The condition was triggered by a reaction medication she took in 2010 and she initially thought the music in her head was down to a noisy neighbour.
She has since been tormented by a handful of songs which play on a continual loop, including Happy Birthday, God Save The Queen, Abide With Me, and You’ll Never Walk Alone.
But she dreads Christmas as she frequently hears the carol Silent Night on the TV, radio and shops.
Cath, of West Derby, Liverpool, said: “I don’t know where I heard it but it’s stuck there. It’s getting on my nerves to be honest.
“I’d rather be listening to a Dean Martin song.”
Cath, a former stock room worker for Marks & Spencer, said the songs were triggered after she began taking anti-depressants following the death of her sister, Mary.
She only took the medication for four weeks but the songs have remained.
Cath, whose husband Derek passed away 20 years ago, said she was alarmed when she first heard the singing as she didn’t know where it was coming from.
She said: “When I woke up in the morning I heard music and it was God save the Queen. I thought it was next door because it was going on and on.
“I went out the back door, I went out the front door, I went out to see if there was any music being played everywhere, I was thinking where is it coming from?
“It just goes on and on and on, one song after another.
“It’s a tenor, a man’s voice and it’s a nice voice, very strong, loud and there’s a background of music.”
To try and drown out the singing, she carries out noisy tasks such as vacuuming, sings at the top of her voice and even shouts to “tell it off”.
The mother-of-four said: “I tell it to shut up and be quiet, I’ve had enough of it.
“I just get really angry with it and say ‘be quiet and leave me alone and give me a bit of peace’.”
There is no known cure for Cath’s condition but she remains remarkably upbeat.
She said: “What I will say to the poor people out there who are like me is don’t let it worry you too much.
“Get on with your life and enjoy yourself as much as you can and be happy.
“I have worked out the fact that I should be glad that it is not a serious illness – it’s not going to kill me.
“I just get on with everything and I try to live my life as best I can.”
Musical ear syndrome is thought to affect one in 10,000 people aged over 65 in the UK.
Dr Nick Warner, a psychiatrist who specialises in the elderly, said listening to other music can help sufferers of auditory hallucinations.
He said: “Some people have found that putting on other music enables that music to take over from the music of hallucinations.
“For those who live alone, it may not be the best thing to live alone. They should get out or get more people to come and see you.
“I find that, in some people, medication helped, and that would have been low doses of anti-psychotic drugs.”
People with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia can suffer from psychiatric auditory hallucinations.
These tend to be voices rather than music and are perceived to be talking to or about the sufferer.
Those with musical ear syndrome experience non-psychiatric auditory hallucinations – that is music or words that aren’t particularly meaningful to them.
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