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What do we mean by Voice Hearing?

‘Voice hearing’ means hearing someone or something talking when nobody or nothing seems to be speaking. Voice hearing is common to many different mental health problems. But lots of people who do not experience mental health problems hear voices too. Voices sound like somebody talking out loud and range from being quiet to very loud. They can make sense or seem like jumbled nonsense. They can also be confusing because other people say they don’t hear what you are hearing. It can sometimes be hard to believe that other people cannot hear what you can, but usually there is someone you trust enough that can tell you whether they can hear the voices or not. If it is just you hearing the voices, then this experience can be called a ‘hallucination’.

Voices can be difficult to explain: how can I hear someone talking when it’s not coming from any person? Sometimes the voice may seem to be coming through walls or from a distance – it may sound like your neighbours or machinery or something else. You might want to check out whether the sound is coming from the place you think it is. If it seems that the voices aren’t being spoken by somebody, it can still be helpful to try to work out what is causing them. It may take some time to come up with an explanation that makes sense and fits in with the other things happening to you. You may want to explore that explanation with others to see how reasonable it is.

Voices can arise for a lot of reasons. For example:

  • Severe lack of sleep
  • Bereavements
  • Stress or traumatic experiences

Hearing voices can often be a response to the things going on for you at the time – rather like dreams or nightmares – except these dreams don’t switch off when you are awake.

When voices occur, the part of the brain that is responsible for processing ‘speech’ become active. It doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with the brain – just that the brain is reflecting what is going on.

Everybody’s experiences with voices are different:

  • It can sometimes be reassuring as the voice can sound like a familiar person
  • It can sometimes be a pleasant experience that can relieve loneliness
  • It can be neutral – neither good nor bad, but still a little confusing
  • It can also be very distressing and disturbing