Although it is well-known that seizures can be triggered by flashing lights, they also can be triggered from repetitive loud sounds, such as car alarms, live music concerts and video games. There are several types of seizures that can be triggered by sounds, from the dramatic grand mal to the brief clonic seizures that mostly affect sleeping people.
There are many different seizure disorders from poisoning, drug abuse, very high fevers, head injuries, internal organ failure and severe illnesses like epilepsy and lupus. All of these conditions affect how the brain communicates with the body. The brain overproduces neurotransmitters–the chemicals that help tell the body what to do. The healthy brain only fires about 80 neurotransmitters per second. A brain in a seizure fires off 500 per second. The body cannot keep up with the flood of neurotransmitters.
repetitive sounds cause three main types of seizures. One is a musicogenic seizure, in which just remembering a favourite tune can trigger a grand mal or a complex partial seizure. According to Epilepsy Ontario, even dreaming about favourite tunes can trigger a seizure. Another type of seizure triggered by sound is called a clonic seizure, which happens for about 10 to 15 seconds during sleep. However, it can rarely happen to people who are awake. They may not lose consciousness, but will lose all coordination. The third type is epilepsy triggered by lights, sounds or chewing and is called reflex epilepsy.
Seizures caused by sounds occur shortly after or even during the time that the patient is listening to the noises. These reactions can include losing bladder and bowel control, uncontrollable muscle spasms all over the body or just in part of the body, loss of consciousness, repeating nonsensical words, suddenly staring off into space, becoming unresponsive and trying to fight anyone who tries to help.
Treatment is twofold. It involves identifying the sources of noises triggering seizures and eliminating them when possible. Therapy has involved a person listening to a piece of music or a sound so often that her brain finally get used to it or get bored by it. Medication includes anticonvulsants such as carbamazepine and phenytoin, although pregnant women should not take these medications.
Any seizure lasting longer than five minutes should be treated as a medical emergency because the seizure may cause brain damage. Call an ambulance immediately. The patient would need anticonvulsants given intravenously and possibly a tube placed in the throat to help him breathe.