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Learning a New Word: Apophenia

by Cowboy Bob Sorensen

No need to be bothered by this five-syllable word because what it describes is interesting, and even useful. I wondered if there was a term for hearing sounds that do not exist where psychosis is not involved. Yes there is.

Our brains were designed to make sense out of patterns. There are two ways we try to make sense out of nothing, one of which is musical ear syndrome.
Credit: Freeimages
Before I get to the audio part, pareidolia seems to be more widely known. This is where people think they see things that are not actually there, such as gazing at passing clouds and seeing a dinosaur chasing a car. Pareidolia happens a great deal in the "true ghost" videos where an evil face is seen in a mirror or against a dark background. I was able to see Charles Darwin's profile in a tree, people saw a woman on Mars, and so on. It is probably worth noting that when watching the scary video collections, the viewer is prepped by the verbal cues of the narrator, and by expecting to see something creepy.

The audio version is apophenia (brief definition and pronunciation here), which is also called musical ear syndrome. Centuries ago, I was using a clock radio tuned into a talk station. Several times I woke up hearing the sounds but realized the alarm had not gone off. More recently, I was hearing distant talking or even music. In these and other instances, there was nothing I was able to discern. A common factor was white noise, including fans and an air purifier. Switch those off, and I heard nothing.

In all of this, the brain tries to make sense of auditory and visual stimuli. (I reckon that our Creator built that into our biological software to help us live our lives and even to solve problems.) When scanning this extremely interesting article, I read where people have experiences that match my own. If y'all are hearing things mixed in with other sounds, but they stop when things are quiet, that's normal. Hearing voices clearly when alone and all is quiet, well, that's an entirely different matter.

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