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Saturday 16 December 2017

Exploding Head Syndrome (EHS)?

I would like to share about an incident that happened to me during the 4th week of November 2017. It all started on 19 November. On that night, I was somehow very tired, so I slept unusually early at 12AM. Then, I woke up at 4:30AM. Out of sudden, I heard a strange high-pitched sound. My first thought was that the sound was from my phone or iPad.

However, when I checked my phone and iPad, neither had any notifications. A few minutes later, I heard the same sound again. At that point, it was clear that the sound didn’t come from my phone or iPad. The sound was definitely from within my room, but I couldn’t determine its direction and I couldn’t think of anything else in my room that could be making the sound.

Every few minutes, I would hear the same sound again and again. I started to feel very scared. Was my room haunted? Or was I having auditory hallucinations? Then, after doing a quick search on Google, I came across a disease known as Exploding Head Syndrome (EHS).

According to Wikipedia, people with EHS would hear an imaginary high-pitched sound when they are falling asleep or waking up from sleep. The cause of EHS is unknown, but it seems to be more common in people who are deprived of sleep. EHS is harmless, but there is currently no treatment proven effective.

I thought that I must be having EHS. This was something I had never experienced before in the past. As I tried to go back to sleep, I continued hearing the sound every few minutes. I noticed that the sound seemed to be coming from a particular direction when I was lying down, but not when I was sitting up.

I was still able to fall asleep, but when I woke up at about 8:30AM, I still heard the sound. However, soon after I got up from bed, the sound stopped completely. After class on that afternoon, I took an afternoon nap as usual. Throughout the nap, I didn’t hear the sound at all. I was a bit relieved, thinking that I was just having a single episode of EHS.

However, at 2AM on that night, when I was still studying, I once again heard the sound. That was strange, as people with EHS usually hear the sound only when falling asleep or waking up. Just like the previous day, the sound would come every few minutes, continuing until the next morning.

Starting from the following day, I would make sure to sleep no later than 1:15AM every night. I was hoping that by getting enough sleep, it would get rid of the EHS. However, nothing changed. The sound would begin some time between 2AM and 3AM every night, waking me up from sleep. Yet, I would not hear the sound whenever I took naps in the afternoon.

I definitely felt quite depressed about this. I was worried that the EHS would be permanent. Worse still, I was already very stressed at that time because I would be having an examination in a few weeks time. I thought of consulting a doctor, but I had read that EHS could not be treated. I also thought of spending a night in the NUMed library to see if there would be any difference.

Then it happened. In the afternoon on 24 November, I somehow decided to turn on the air-conditioner in my room. Usually, I only use the air-conditioner at night, not in the afternoon. Half an hour later, I suddenly heard the same sound again. This was the first time I heard the sound in the afternoon. I was fully awake at that time, and I suddenly began to think, could the sound be from the air-conditioner?

When I looked at the air-conditioner, I noticed the smoke detector located near it. The smoke detector was installed by NUMed quite some time ago and I had almost forgotten about its existence. Then, at the moment when I heard the sound again, the smoke detector emitted a red light at the same time. This meant that the sound was actually from the smoke detector!

I was so relieved that I wasn’t really having EHS. To further confirm that, I recorded the sound using my phone. Then, after looking up the Internet, I finally understood everything. The fact is that, the smoke detector will give out a warning sound every few minutes if its battery is low. However, the battery of the smoke detector in my room is at the borderline level.

Most of the time, its battery level is still sufficient so it does not give the sound. However, when my room is very cold after the air-conditioner has been on for some time, the low temperature decreases the rate of chemical reaction in the battery, causing the battery level to fall below the borderline, so the smoke detector gives the warning sound.

I had always set a timer so that the air-conditioner would switch off automatically at 7:30AM every morning. After it switches itself off, the temperature in my room starts rising, so the battery level of the smoke detector increases as well. After some time, the battery level goes above the borderline and the smoke detector stops giving the warning sound.

After I understood everything, I made a report to NUMed about that and pretty soon, they sent someone to replace the battery of the smoke detector. Since then, I no longer hear that sound and I once again can sleep comfortably at night!

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