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28lorelei's avatar

Why do people with perfect pitch get physically sick when they hear something that's out of tune?

Asked by 28lorelei (2509points) April 15th, 2010

I know and have talked to people with AP, and many of them get nauseous or some other physical symptoms related to out-of-tune things. For my part, I get splitting headaches. Why does this happen? Is it purely psychological or is there some other reason?

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19 Answers

beautifulbobby193's avatar

Sounds like a bit of an exaggeration to me.

28lorelei's avatar

i wish it was.

tinyfaery's avatar

Whaat? I have never heard of this before, but I experience a flight or fight response when I hear high octaves.

wundayatta's avatar

When two notes are slightly out of pitch, they set up this interference pattern that sounds kind of like a wah-wah thing (I can’t really describe it). In people with sensitive ears, I imagine this might move the cilia in your ear in discombobulated ways, which, since your inner ear is related to balance, can make you feel dizzy, which makes you feel sick.

It’s not so bad for me, but I don’t have perfect pitch or anything. I play with someone who really gets on my case occasionally. Sometimes, I don’t know why, my horn is all over the place, and I just can’t keep it under control. Sometimes my recorder is flat and sometimes it is ok. He’ll go crazy when I’m out of pitch sometimes and not others.

Go figure.

Here’s an article about cilia and dizziness (from other sources). Maybe there’s something to my theory.

IBERnineD's avatar

My mom and I are just like this, I hear this awful ringing noise whenever anyone is off pitch. Especially if it is by a small margin. I have never heard pf anyone getting physically ill, but I would believe it,

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CMaz's avatar

I guess it is the same as a bad smell.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I don’t get physically ill, but it is, for me, highly irritating to hear music that’s out of tune. I’m not big on atonal musics of the Philip Glass or post-1960s jazz variety. It feels off.

janbb's avatar

@gailcalled Or “loose“and “lose” (not a homonym)?

wundayatta's avatar

Half step pitch difference are a whole ‘nother ball game from micro-tonal differences.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

I don’t get physically sick, but I can definitely tell when something is out of tune. It’s hard to describe… it just sounds “wrong.” My reaction is usually something like, “Ouch! Don’t they hear what they are doing?!”

28lorelei's avatar

Dr Dredd, that’s my first reaction too. If it goes on for awhile, then I start getting a headache.

Trillian's avatar

@gailcalled beat me to it.
I can hear a flat note and it is uncomfortable inside my head though I have nowhere near perfect pitch. i can imagine that it’s a lot worse for them.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@28lorelei It’s like fingernails screeching on a blackboard…

charliecompany34's avatar

i am a musician who also teaches voice and parts to a choir of about 40 members. now i dont get physically sick, but they can tell when something is not jiving with the “pitch” when my face contorts and grimaces. my facial expressions when pitch is not good looks something like when fingernails scratch a chalkboard.

musicians and vocalists who have the gift of perfect pitch already have an idea of what the sound should be when it comes out WAY before the sound comes out. what we expect to hear is not heard at that precise moment and we can do nothing but cringe.

28lorelei's avatar

@Dr_Dredd I agree with u totally

mattbrowne's avatar

I do too, but it’s not as extreme. I tend to block my ears. Couple of years ago at some German-French festival in our village there was a new local high school band, 6 kids or so, playing wild music all evening. I appreciated their enthusiasm. But this is where the appreciation ended. The bass guitarist was about a three-quarter tone too low. The entire 3 hours. At first I took frequent breaks standing outside the building next to where all the smokers were gathering. I usually try to avoid smoke, but it really gave me this strange feeling of pleasure compared to the horrible sound inside. We couldn’t leave early as we acted as hosts for a French family from our twin town. I also fest very embarrassed about the poor quality of the music. But oddly enough most people didn’t seem to notice. After the third beer (my usual limit is two) the torture became a bit more endurable for me.

xRIPxTHEREVx's avatar

It doesn’t really make me sick yet, it just drives me nuts and I freak out in my head. It may be a form of OCD. O-o

Morgannn's avatar

I get extremely bad headaches. The non in tune pitches cause some part of my eardrums to vibrate really bad.. and it just hurts.

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