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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Complex Auditory Aura

Thank you to my online friends for enlightening me on what I likely experienced more than a week ago. I have done a lot of reading about what is called a COMPLEX AUDITORY AURA and—though every case is different—I would guess this is what I experienced. Apparently it happens more frequently with trained musicians. So far it has only happened that one time with me.

I have had several days to digest the experience and I guess what really bothers me is my brain perceived something that was not there. We like to think the world is out there and what we pick up with seeing, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling pretty much sums it up for us. The brain is like Grand Central Station: all the senses are accounted for, computed and a clear mental image emerges of what is actually OUT THERE.

But what about the times when you are clearly sensing something—for an extended period of time—and yet you know this cannot be? As I wrote in my last blog, this was not like a tune stuck in my head nor was it music I was imagining. This was music I could hear, music that was playing live in the other room. It played on for over an hour. Thankfully, it was the sound of my wife's classical guitar and not a brass band.

I casually mentioned this to my ENT surgeon the other day (who performed half of both my brain surgeries). My surgeon also happens to be my next-door neighbor so there are plenty of opportunities to run into one another. He thought my experience was interesting and he mentioned cases where people have come to him hearing voices, wondering if they have a computer chip in their head.

"A computer chip IN their head?" I asked. "The voices are INside their head?"

"Yes, like a voice inside their head telling them things."

"My experience was a sound OUTside of me. It was in the other room and I had to go find it."

"That's less common," my surgeon said.

I've heard that before.

There have been a few other symptoms to report, mostly a continuation of what I have written before: ear ringing, occasional brain shocks (mostly under control with medication), bouts of disorientation relating to overstimulation with sounds and colors (grocery store = evil), and strange moments when one or both of my legs simply do not respond when I am walking. For the last symptom, it is like I have to say, "Hey, leg. Move it!" And then my leg responds, "Huh? Oh, sorry."

I have another two weeks until I will return to playing at least some oboe again. This summer—due to my wavering condition—I had to sit out what is usually the highlight of my musical year: The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, California. Last summer I experienced a few moments of dimmed vision and headaches during concerts that I dismissed as either jet lag or too many bear claws from the breakfast crew. The espresso in Santa Cruz is also lethal, so I assumed whatever was going on in my head was not anything to worry about. Let's face it: just like Monty Python's "Spanish Inquisition," no one expects a brain tumor.

To all my colleagues at Cabrillo, thank you for the sweet card! I was following all of you through Facebook and I was reading all the articles and reviews. You rock! And I'll be back. It killed me to miss the best year ever, but then again every year at Cabrillo seems that way, doesn't it?

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