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As people get older, it is not uncommon to start to hear or see things that other people do not. Hearing a voice call your name or seeing a person who cannot be there are experiences that can occur throughout life, but certain things seem to make them likely to happen in older adults. Here we review some of these factors, including sensory loss, changes to the brain, loneliness and bereavement, among others. We also provide information about sources of support for older adults who hear voices and those who care for or about them.

It’s important to note at the outset that while there is quite of a lot of research into visions and feelings of presence in older adults, there is relatively little that specifically focuses on experiences of hearing voices. In what follows, we discuss a range of different experiences, drawing attention to research that is directly related to voice-hearing where it is available.

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