One percent of the world's population is very sensitive to some sounds and cannot stand them. Nystagmus, or uncontrollable high-frequency eye movements in response to a sound vibrating in a particular key, is a symptom of the congenital Tullio phenomenon and can result in nausea, loss of balance, dizziness, and visual impairment.
WHEN MUSIC BECOMES TORTURE FOR THE EYES
It won’t likely be a surprise to you if I say that the eyes can respond to sound. But have you ever heard, that 1% of the population has a special sensitivity to these particularly unbearable frequencies.
If a person like this hears, for example, the booming voice vibrating at a certain frequency, not unlike a screaming peacock, or a neighbor’s particular music, it can become bad.
This isn’t a metaphor or snobbery. They’ll have signs of nausea, loss of balance, and dizziness… as well as potential loss-of-vision.
It has a name – the Tullio phenomenon.
The reason for this was only discovered recently, however, under the leadership of Marta Iverson at the University of Utah. It all has to do with the attenuation of the semicircular ear canal. Inside this bony labyrinth, like a matryoshka nesting doll, is another webbed labyrinth filled with endolymph.
When the bone there is thin, Tullio occurs.
Pietro Tullio himself drilled holes in the semicircular canals of pigeons. After hearing certain frequencies, they would lose balance.
Tullio phenomenon in humans is congenital. They also often have nystagmus, which are high-frequency, involuntary eye movements. Most likely it is this that causes the dizziness, nausea, and loss-of-balance.
How are you supposed to stabilize the body when everything is floating and flashing in front of you? You get the same effect while drunk, but Tullio doesn’t last long, just tens of seconds.
How does sound do this? What is the secret?
EYES, FISH, AND THE EARS
There are fish with inner ears like ours. It’s as if they were created for experimentation on the subject. Such a study was carried out, and it confirmed that sound causes “pathogenic” waves in the inner ear. The fish also became dizzy.
Endolymph usually moves when the head turns and the eyes adjust to stabilize the image; otherwise, it would shift about, as well.
However, due to the labyrinth being so thin, sounds “breaks through” the bone and affect the movement of the liquid. Disinformation is sent to the brain and through the eyes, resulting in nystagmus.
Thankfully, the problem can be fixed with minor surgery, but it’s unlikely that all 70 million affected can afford it.
Many other problems with the eyes can be fixed, though, if you come to the right place.