Julie Redfern Hears Eyeballs Move: UK Mom Suffers From Hypersensitive Hearing

By iScienceTimes Staff on June 27, 2013 3:00 PM EDT

ear exam
Julie Redfern of England is afflicted with superior canal dehiscence syndrome, a rare disorder that amplifies sound. The crunching sound of eating an apple, for instance, is too thunderous for Redfern to bear. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Julie Redfern, a mother of three from Lancashire, England, suffers from a rare disorder causing her to hear noises from inside her body very loudly -- everything from her eyeballs moving to the blood coursing in her veins.

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Superior canal dehiscence syndrome was only recognized in 1998, said Gerald Brookes, a neurologist at The Harley Street ENT Clinic in London. "Patients may complain of various odd and seemingly bizarre symptoms, and may even be considered to be suffering from a possible psychiatric ailment until the  true diagnosis is made."

Redfern first noticed something was wrong right after her 40th birthday. She was playing Tetris on the computer, and kept hearing a squeaking noise as she played. Eventually she realized it was the sound of her own eyeballs as they followed the Tetris pieces onscreen.

"Every time the block moved and I followed it with my eyes I could hear them squeaking," Redfern said. "It was a horrible sensation, I could literally hear them moving, scratching, it was very weird."

A confused Redfern asked her husband if he was hearing his own eyeballs too.

"He looked at me very strangely. I thought I was going mad. I started asking people if they could hear theirs but no one could."

The problem was so bad that Redfern stopped eating in restaurants because she couldn't hear her dining companions over the sound of her own chewing. And crunchy foods like apples or chips were out of the questions, because of how loud they sounded. At her job, where Redfern worked as a receptionist, she couldn't stand the phones ringing, which caused her eyeballs to shake loudly.

Doctors recommended a surgery that would close up the holes in Redfern's thinning ear bone, and though there was a possibility that the surgery could make her deaf, Redfern knew she had to do it.

"Even though there were risks I had to have it done, I couldn't have coped with it for another 40 years, seven was enough."

The surgery of Redfern's first ear was successful, and now she plans to get the other ear operated on too.

"I know when I have the other ear done I'll be cured," Redfern said. "But you never know I might miss not hearing all these strange little things."

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