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Auditory hallucinations (also known as Paracusia),[1] particularly of one or more talking voices, are particularly associated with psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, and hold special significance in diagnosing these conditions, although many people not suffering from diagnosable mental illness may sometimes hear voices as well.[2] The Hearing Voices Movement is a support and advocacy group for people who hallucinate voices, but do not otherwise show signs of mental illness or impairment. Other types of auditory hallucinations include musical hallucinations, where people will hear music playing in their mind, usually songs they are familiar with. This can be caused by: lesions on the brain stem (often resulting from strokes); also, tumors, encephalitis, or abscesses.[3] Other reasons include hearing loss and epileptic activity. Recent reports have also mentioned that it is also possible to get musical hallucinations from listening to music for long periods of time.[4]

Epidemiology of hearing voices

For example, Bentall and Slade (1985) found that as many as 15.4% of a population of 150 male students were prepared to endorse the statement ‘In the past I have had the experience of hearing a person’s voice and then found that no one was there’. They add: ‘[…]no less that 17.5% of the [subjects] were prepared to score the item “I often hear a voice speaking my thoughts aloud” as “Certainly Applies”. This latter item is usually regarded as a first-rank symptom of schizophrenia[…]’

Green and McCreery (1975) found that 14% of their 1800 self-selected subjects reported a purely auditory hallucination, and of these nearly half involved the hearing of articulate or inarticulate human speech sounds. An example of the former would be the case of an engineer facing a difficult professional decision, who, while sitting in a cinema, heard a voice saying, ‘loudly and distinctly’: ‘You can’t do it you know’. He adds: ‘It was so clear and resonant that I turned and looked at my companion who was gazing placidly at the screen[…] I was amazed and somewhat relieved when it became apparent that I was the only person who had heard anything.’

This case would be an example of what Posey and Losch (1983) call ‘hearing a comforting or advising voice that is not perceived as being one’s own thoughts’. They estimated that approximately 10% of their population of 375 American college students had had this type of experience.

Developmental perspective to auditory hallucinations

Main article: Hearing voices in children


Treatment approaches

See also

References & Bibliography

  1. Medical dictionary.
  2. Thompson, Andrea Hearing Voices: Some People Like It. URL accessed on 2006-11-25.
  3. Rare Hallucinations Make Music In The Mind. URL accessed on 2006-12-31.
  4. Young, Ken IPod hallucinations face acid test. URL accessed on 2008-04-10.

Key texts


  • Bauer S (1970): The function of hallucinations: an enquiry into the relationship of hallucinatory experience to create thought, Origin and Mechanisms of Hallucinations, Keup W (ed), New York, Plenum
  • Blackman, L (2001): Hearing voices, embodiment and experience , Free Association Books, London,
  • Corstens, D., May, R. and Longden, E. (2007). Talking with voices: The voice dialoguing manual. intervoice link
  • Downs,J (ed), (2001), Coping with Voices And Visions, A guide to helping people who Experience hearing voices, seeing visions, tactile or other Sensations, Hearing Voices Network, Manchester, England


  • Baker P.K (1990): I hear voices and I'm glad to! Critical Public Health, No. 4, 1990, pp 21 27
  • Baker P.K (1995): Accepting the Inner Voices, Nursing Times, Vol. 91, No 31, 1995, pp 59 61
  • Bentall R.P and Slade P.D. (1995), Reliability of a scale for measuring disposition towards hallucinations: a brief report, Person. Individ. Diff. Vol 6, No. 4, pp. 527 529
  • M. Birchwood; A Meaden; P. Trower; P. Gilbert; J. Plaistow; (2000): The power and omnipotence of voices: subordination and entrapment by voices and significant others. Psychological Medicine. Vol 30 (2), 337-344
  • Chadwick,P., Lees, S. and Birchwood,MJ (2000), The revised beliefs about voices questionnaire, British Journal Psychiatry no 177, pp 229-232
  • Chadwick PDJ, Birchwood MJ (1995): The omnipotence of voices II: the beliefs about voices questionnaire, British Journal of Psychiatry, no 166, pp 773-776
  • Chadwick, P., Sambrooke, S., Rasch, S. and Davies, E. (2000),“Challenging the omnipotence of voices: group cognitive behaviour therapy for voices”,Behaviour Research Therapy, Vol.38, No.10, pp. 993-1003.
  • Graham Cockshutt (2004), Choices for voices: A voice hearer's perspective on hearing voices, Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, Volume 9, Issue 1 & 2 February 2004 , pages 9 - 11
  • Davies, Peggy; Thomas, Philip; Leudar, Ivan (1999): Dialogical engagement with voices: A single case study. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 72, 179-187
  • McLeod, T., Morris, M., Birchwood, M. and Dovey, A. (2007),“Cognitive behavioural therapy group work with voice hearers. Part 1”,British Journal of Nursing, Vol.16, No. 4, pp. 248-52.
  • Martin P. J. (2000): Hearing voices and listening to those that hear them. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 7 (2), 135–141
  • Posey, T.B. and Losch, M.E. (1983). Auditory hallucinations of hearing voices in 375 normal subjects. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 3, 99-113.
  • Sanjuan J, Gonzalez JC, Aguilar EJ, Leal C and Os J; Pleasurable auditory hallucinations Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 2004; 110 (4); 273-278
  • Wykes, T. (2004), “Psychological treatment for voices in psychosis”,

Cognitive Neuropsychiatry. Vol. 9, No 1-2, pp. 25-41.

Additional material



External links

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