Dystonia, Earworms, Tinnitus and Misophonia

Kim Amburgey

Dystonia brings with it nervous system dysfunction, dysautonomia, which can cause some surprising symptoms such as: a looping of sound (tinnitus), a looping of songs (earworms), and misophonia (a strong negative reaction to some common sounds).

Can Dystonia cause Earworms, Tinnitus and Misophonia?

Yes it can, however, earworms, tinnitus, and misophonia can be experienced by someone whether affected by dystonia or not, and the symptoms can be within the realm of “normal”, in that they do not disrupt a person’s life. They can also be from other causes so a thorough medical evaluation is necessary, along with continued followups by your health care team.

What we are talking about in this post are these symptoms being related to dysautonomia that is often present with dystonia, and also the symptoms being significant – a looping of a song or sound or a strong negative reaction to a sound that is persistent and sometimes overwhelming, impacting a person’s life and sometimes even rocking the very foundation of their sanity.

The songs and sounds can be with you almost every waking moment, from the minute you wake up until you finally fall off to sleep at night.  This is way different from someone jokingly saying, “Oh I’ve got a song stuck in my head”, or “Occasionally I hear a ringing in my ear, but only once a month or so for some seconds”.  For us it is no joke as the tendencies are pervasive, we start to question what is happening to us.

Why is this happening?

Simply put, in dystonia our brain has lost the ability to ‘shut off’, to ‘relax and unwind’ as we have been thrust into sympathetic overdrive, which means the part of our nervous system in charge of a reactive response is now stuck in high gear and we have lost ability to get into a relaxation response, into a low gear. When in this state, songs we hear, sounds we experience, even thoughts we consider, can just keep looping as there is no relaxation response to turn the brain off, to stop them from becoming invasive and repetitive. They just keep going round and round.

Neuroscientist Joaquin Farias has observed a percentage of his clients suffer from these various conditions, and that in many cases the earworms, misophonia, or tinnitus was a sign of dysautonomia (nervous system dysregulation) that actually preceded for days, months or even years the first symptoms of movement irregularities (spasms and tremors, the classic signs of dystonia).

As one patient described, “I started feeling dizziness, insomnia, tinnitus – and 8 months later tremors and spasms began.”

Dr. Farias notes that, “It’s common that inefficient cortical inhibition triggers obsessive-compulsive episodes (43%) in dystonia patients.” : OCD can be tied with earworms.

Dr. Farias’s research shows that dysautonomia (which includes a high stress response) is present with dystonia.  Research indicates tinnitus can be tied to dysautonomia  , and misophonia includes a high stress response.

How can we help ourselves?

In another blog post, Dr. Farias helps us to understand dysautonomia in relation to dystonia, and also suggests ways to heal from the symptoms of dysautonomia , which in turn helps to lessen the movement symptoms of dystonia. The many tips Dr. Farias shares can also help diminish earworms, tinnitus, misophonia and even O.C.D. symptoms.

Why didn’t anyone explain the connection to dystonia before?

What can make these symptoms even more stressful for patients is not even realising they can be common among those with dystonia.  Perhaps we didn’t think to ask our neurologist as we felt it wasn’t related, or maybe we did and our doctor didn’t know it’s connection or was simply too overwhelmed with patients to discuss it in a meaningful way to assuage our fears and give us hope for resolution. Perhaps we were afraid to talk about it with anyone, as deep down we started to wonder if we were exhibiting signs of losing our mental faculties, we may have mentioned once or twice but were summarily told “it’s no big deal” or “everyone experiences them” – and then we went inward, deciding that we would run the risk of being ‘different’, so we instead kept these often terrifying symptoms to ourselves.

I don’t think anyone can realise just how disturbing these brain looping ‘noise’ symptoms are unless they experience a strong case of them first hand.  And when you combine it with the many other symptoms that occur with dystonia, it can be a very distressing time in our lives, sometimes even leading to work or relationship struggles.

Moving forward…

Regardless of how we all got to this place of understanding, the great news is we can return to a more normal nervous system state which can reduce or eliminate these various types of ‘brain noise’ so we can live more comfortably.

Dr. Farias’s recovery platform (DRP) has many exercises to stimulate the weak neural pathways involved in movement so we can move normally again, but also on the platform are a host of neuro-relaxation items and brain synchronization exercises that are extremely beneficial in calming down the overactive sympathetic nervous system so our brains can finally relax and let go of any looping ‘noise’.  Also included are video interviews with Professor Nada Ashkar from the Ontario College Traditional Chinese Medicine, for those who are interested in pursuing this healing path. One such video is on tinnitus with suggestions that include certain areas for acupuncture and herbal remedies.


This from a patient who is just beginning the DRP protocol: “I have tinnitus periodically and also earworms. This entire program is showing me that things I’ve experienced over the years that most people cannot relate to are things common to patients with dystonia.”

And this from another patient: “I have noticed my eyes are not as prone to bright lights, and the earworms have gone after about 40 years, ha! I’ve been religiously practising the platform protocol for almost four months.”

After learning from Dr. Farias, I personally was extremely relieved to understand these symptoms are often seen in dystonia patients, and I was even more relieved when his protocol enabled me to put these symptoms to rest. They only seldom will reemerge (though far less intensely), and interestingly what used to be a horrendous bit of torture is now a handy indicator for me that I may be ‘revving up’ to have a setback of both motor symptoms (spasms and tremors) and non-motor symptoms (sensory disturbances, brain noises, anxiety, dizziness, etc). I can then jump back into the many training tools on the DRP so as to nip any impending issues in the bud. Having recovered 95% of my function through Dr. Farias’s protocol gives me peace of mind that I can do it again when or if necessary.

A few personal practices I found very helpful for earworms –  put in earbuds and listen to very calming music, like new-age music or sounds of Tibetan singing bowls and chimes while meditating or doing chores. It helps to override songs with lyrics or fast paced songs to slower ones. Walking outside in nature helped the most, at first with the earbuds in, but then removing earbuds and instead tuning into sounds of nature, like birds chirping, leaves rustling.  Walking outdoors turned into an earworm-free zone, no surprise as being in nature is known as a calming influence on the nervous system.

For misophonia, once I learned what was happening and why, after successfully ending (through the DRP) this maddening issue, I could only apologise profusely to my husband for complaining about how he chewed (normally, but didn’t sound that way to me when misophonia was present), and to top it off, the way he breathed. The poor man couldn’t even breathe without me commenting on how loud it was (it wasn’t, it was my hearing, my reaction).  My husband’s a good egg and was very patient, and I’d like to think I’ve since made it up to him, but just to be safe: Hun, I’m sorry.  🙂

For the rest of us, we have a way forward!

Let’s get started!!

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