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The eardrums move when the eyes move (pnas.org)
152 points by hprotagonist on Jan 23, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 57 comments

There is a medical condition where people can hear their own eye movements.

> The bizarre phenomenon of being able to hear the sound of the eyeballs moving in their sockets (e.g. when reading in a quiet room) "like sandpaper on wood" is one of the more distinctive features of this condition and is almost exclusively associated with SCDS.


I can hear my eye movements. It used to be only when I was tired or sick, but with age it's become more prevalent.

I personally experience this if I forget to take or try to stop taking duloxetine (also known as Cymbalta). It is one of the more annoying and frankly disconcerting withdrawal symptoms. Other fun symptoms consist of "brain zaps" where you suddenly feel like you've been shocked from within your head out of nowhere, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, sweating, and once I was watching TV and the only way I can describe the sensation is that it looked slowed down.

Similarly, when I'm really still and reading a book, I can hear some sort of grinding sound when I turn my neck ever so slightly. The sound reminds me of a little stepper motor. I have no idea if that is unique or not but I always thought it was interesting.

I can hear mine but only when I’m congested. My wife never has understood, but it’s my first signal that I have inflammation and some type of illness is forthcoming.

I have always felt it, but presumed it was "cross talk" in the optical nerves being interpreted as "movement" in the outer ear.

You might be able to experience it yourself. Just move your eyes all the way (ALL the way) to the right or left and hold them there for a second, you might hear/feel a high-pitched sensation almost like a slight tickle right where your eardrum is.

Until you pointed this out, I hadn’t noticed it, but it has indeed always been there.

I wonder what other sensory anomalies we experience without realising ?

This is why buddhist monks talk about reality vibrating - the continuity of reality is an illusion constructed by the brain, while the actual perceptions generated are a series of discrete experiences.

Also, eye saccades are a great example of this. If you look at your own eyes in the mirror and switch between looking at your left and right eyes, you don't see your eyes move. If you watch someone else do this, you do.

Yes, it is also why when you look suddenly at a clock it appears to be stopped. This explains it in more detail: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNBTLbw1_2Q

This thing perplexed me to no end when I was younger. I literally used to sit around for hours after school, trying to catch the wall clock stopped.

The monk comment on reality thing vibrating is really fascinating.

Sometimes when it's quiet and I'm laying down. I can feel vibrations, for many years I attributed them to subtle deep earthquakes or even perhaps the house or something shifting. But after having felt a similar vibration in many states. Many floors up or on outside ground. It's all quite similar. Although I've never had any formal meditation training, I have read and practiced it a lot before. I wonder if I'm feeling reality vibrating or perhaps at least in the sense the monks meant.

interestingly the ear has recently been found to oscillate its follicles at frequencies which enhance what the brain wants to hear ... Hudspeth AJ http://dx.doi.org/10.1162/DAED_a_00316 ... science has barely scratched the surface of even the feeblest understanding of biophysics, what a great time to be alive

Is this why people turn the radio down when trying to look for an address, parking space, etc?

If I listen to the radio (speech) and then start to read and try to simultaneously listen to the radio it becomes incomprehensible. Quite weird.

Funny, it still works for me. Could it be an attention thing instead?

Probably has more to do with how you process written vs audio information. Richard Feynman had an anecdote about discovering that he couldn't read and count in his head at the same time but others could, turned out the person who could counted in his head by visualizing the numbers rather than 'hearing' them in his inner monologue which allowed him to continue reading.

I sincerely doubt it. That's almost certainly purely psychological, no?

You might find this article easier to read: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/01/when-you...

About 5% of the nerves in the auditory nerve are efferent, and act to modulate the firing of the afferent nerves. Perhaps part of the modulation they achieve is to prevent us "hearing" our eyes move.

Ah, for example:


"Historical evidence in-vivo suggests that a primary function of the EVS is to tune vestibular sensation to the interest and needs of the organism, for example by decreasing the sensitivity during large self-generated movements [30, 31], and adjusting the background discharge characteristics of afferents [6]."

My sister can blow air by the corner of her eyes... it might all be connected.

Tears are set up to drain into the nasal cavity, so when she does that she's probably just forcing air back up the drain.


This makes me wonder ... um ... this might be TMI, but I'm wondering if anyone else has experienced a sudden "clearing" of the sense of smell when washing the perineum. Do we have olfactory cells down there that kind of cancel out our own scent?

I'll start washing "downstairs" and experience a something analogous to clouds parting, but for smell. It's not the smell of the soap per-se, it's a sudden removal of some kind of dullness or dampening.

Always meant to ask about this, but was inhibited. Now you know.

Never heard of it, but I have a weird one too: my left ear pops when I crack my upper back.

Most of the tissue in the neck and exteding into the upper back is connected to the walls of the sinus cavities. Stretching the jaw, neck and shoulders/upper back does a good job of massaging the interal parts of the sinuses that are unrechable otherwise. Feels really good after you hydrate them, from a shower, and you might loosen and expell some nasty snot that could be draining your immune energy!

I woundnt be surprised as tissue is very connected. You might maintain that sensation with some consistency by adding more yoga/stretching to your daily routine.

Oh god I can feel them doing it now.

Scary. I am not going to try this. Seems like if you try it once, you acquire the sense for some time.

As soon as I tried to sense it I could and now I can't stop.

This is torture, how do you stop it???

Don’t try this if you haven’t!!

You’ll forget about it by tomorrow. It’s like when you think about your breathing you feel like you’ll be stuck remembering to breathe for the rest of your life!

It's not bad, once you stop concentrating on it. Since I'm working at home it's so quiet that it's immediately noticeable once I try to hear it, sometimes I can make my ears get close to that popping feeling of major altitude change.

I’ve noticed that when I’m lying in bed in the dark with eyes closed, a sharp unexpected sound (like the popping of a settling structure, not necessarily all that loud) will cause a flash of light across my visual field. I wonder if that is a side-effect of this kind of connection.

Is this something a person would be able to perceive?

I am moving my eyeballs around and imagining I can also feel my ears move, but that might just be the muscles around my ears in my head, or I'm completely imagining the effect.

My guess is that the data gets sent to the brain but sometime during development the brain learned to ignore it (if it's not useful).

I think that when people talk about the "doors of perception" being opened by psychedelic drugs, often leading to experiences of synesthesia (seeing sound, etc), that it's this kind of sensory data that's made available to the brain once again, or that the brain is made unable to ignore it.

I recently read a study based in experiments which said that contrary to the idea that psychedelics make the world unfiltered and open up the brain to more information, what they actually do is the reverse. Psychedelics reduce information, reduce sensory input, and as a consequence the brain fills in the gaps via hallucinations.

Sounds plausible. We do understand that the brain is incredibly good as filtering out massive amounts of regular data. Until it doesn't and you are suddenly aware of where your tongue is in your mouth and it keeps you awake for an hour.

This is incredible. You would think this connection would be obviously known, but it's only recently discovered? I wonder what other fascinating human body connections exist that have yet to be discovered.

I wonder how this works for blind people that 'look' somewhere?

This is exactly what I wondered while reading this. I would be very interested to see a study to see if this was still present with eye movement in vision impaired people.

Ever notice when you chew the sound gets attenuated when you clamp down?

That's one of the automatic functions of the tensor tympani muscle. It also does it when you talk, and as part of your startle reflex.

Fun fact: some people have conscious control of this muscle and can voluntarily "screw up their ears" (at least that's what it feels like, it also makes a roaring/rushing sound) to dampen sounds.

That is really interesting, thank you for that information! Apparently, I've been able to control that muscle my entire life and occasionally wondered what is causing that noise. It's been difficult to describe to people who (now I know) may not be able to do it voluntarily.

Glad to help! :) Yeah, I only realised it wasn't "normal" to be able to control it when I saw one of those "do you know...?" posts about it.

It took a while even reading these posts here until I got it - I can too! :)

Are you talking about the rumbling sound you hear when you yawn with your mouth closed?

I don't really yawn with my mouth closed, but just tried mimicking it and yes, same sound as long as I tense the top of my jaw under my ears. It's more or less the same the same tone as closing your ears manually by pushing the tragus over the opening with your finger, but a bit louder for me.

Haha that's what it is.

There's more tricks too, I'm able to close my nose by a muscle somewhere in the back of my throat. I've asked my friends if they could, but they al say they can't. Anyone else have that?

Is being able to close off your nose not normal? How do people blow up balloons (or otherwise blow air hard out of their mouths) without doing that?

I can. Up til today I never thought it was the slightest bit unusual.

I can do this! Had no idea it wasn't common.

What causes the rushing sound? Blood?

The 30-70Hz vibration of the muscle itself tensing, apparently, according to Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tensor_tympani_muscle#Voluntar...

Interesting. I am no audio engineer but maybe this could add another layer of immersion to a VR system using binaural audio and eye tracking data.

Anyone who can wiggle their ears can confirm this.

I was wondering what that was. Never thought to investigate it. Huh.

i thought that was just my brain trying to escape from my ears.

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