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“I have heard what sounds like people in another room of the apartment next door, often they are fighting. I used to call the police on my neighbours until I realised that I was hearing things that weren’t there… They sound just like they are real people, outside of me, that are making noises.”

Anonymous

“I ‘hear’ voices inside my head…that are not under my control. There are a large number of voices; some of them scream at me, call me names, insult me, and other frightening things; some simply narrate my experience or speak in word salad; and some are friendly.”

Anonymous

“I hear voices which represent people I know, or have seen (know of), and parts of myself and finally my whole self. The best way to describe it is telepathy, in different grades of vividness, from bearable to intrusive.”

Anonymous

“Since age three, I’ve heard voices, and participated in conversations in my head. I thought everyone did. These were mostly good internal friends, but there were some scary voices as well.”

Anonymous

The first time my voice-hearing was so ‘other’ that it made me jump was when a voice with the tenderness of Christ said ‘you are my own dear child’.  It was a very enriching moment as I was in great difficulty at the time.

Anonymous

“I’m a professional writer and I have all kinds of voice-type experiences. Some are voices that are clearly in my head but which feel “different” from my own thoughts. Some are voices that seem to come from outside but which I know don’t. Some are voices of characters in books or scripts I’m writing but which I hear very clearly and feel as if I’m really taking dictation.”

Anonymous

“I hear distinct voices. Each voice has their own personality. They often try to tell me “what to do or try to interject their own thoughts or feelings about a certain subject or matter…My voices range in age and maturity. Many of them have identified themselves and given themselves names. I often carry on conversations with them. Sometimes these are pleasant other-times they are not.”

Anonymous

“I first started hearing voices when I was around 19. More often than not it is a female whose voice comes from a near-by area, but is unattached to a body or form. Usually when I hear her it is just like she is sitting next to me or laying behind me in bed.”

Anonymous

“When I hear actual voices generally they are speaking nonsense or phrases that make sense but aren’t immediately meaningful… almost like flipping between channels on a radio very quickly. They aren’t talking “to” me most of the time, just talking….I also hear noises and, at times, those noises are human (like hearing a person breathing or their lips smacking or tongue moving in their mouth) but other times they aren’t human.

One of my most common voice-hearing experiences is just hearing laughter…Other times, I have even “seen voices” in the sense that the message or phrase or voice came across in my mind’s eye in literal typographic form….Sometimes, I simply have “loud” thoughts, which I do feel are my own, but are also somehow experienced differently than my normal thoughts– more startling, more “out of the blue” or more concrete, somehow, than an organic normal thought…”

Anonymous

“I hear whispered or low-volume voices/sounds. Sometimes it sounds like one voice and sometimes it sounds like multiple voices in unison. Usually just a repeated word or couple of words. It is usually a two syllable word, most often the word “today”, though the emphasis is always on the first syllable regardless of the word and the normal emphasis of the word. The only exception is when I hear my own name.”

Anonymous

“I have heard what sounds like people in another room of the apartment next door, often they are fighting. I used to call the police on my neighbours until I realised that I was hearing things that weren’t there… They sound just like they are real people, outside of me, that are making noises.”

Anonymous

“I ‘hear’ voices inside my head…that are not under my control. There are a large number of voices; some of them scream at me, call me names, insult me, and other frightening things; some simply narrate my experience or speak in word salad; and some are friendly.”

Anonymous

“I hear voices which represent people I know, or have seen (know of), and parts of myself and finally my whole self. The best way to describe it is telepathy, in different grades of vividness, from bearable to intrusive.”

Anonymous

“Since age three, I’ve heard voices, and participated in conversations in my head. I thought everyone did. These were mostly good internal friends, but there were some scary voices as well.”

Anonymous

“The first time my voice-hearing was so ‘other’ that it made me jump was when a voice with the tenderness of Christ said ‘you are my own dear child’.  It was a very enriching moment as I was in great difficulty at the time.”

Anonymous

“I’m a professional writer and I have all kinds of voice-type experiences. Some are voices thatare clearly in my head but which feel “different” from my own thoughts. Some are voices that seem to come from outside but which I know don’t. Some are voices of characters in books or scripts I’m writing but which I hear very clearly and feel as if I’m really taking dictation.”

Anonymous

I hear distinct voices. Each voice has their own personality. They often try to tell me what to do or try to interject their own thoughts or feelings about a certain subject or matter…My voices range in age and maturity. Many of them have identified themselves and given themselves names. I often carry on conversations with them. Sometimes these are pleasant other-times they are not.

Anonymous

“I first started hearing voices when I was around 19. More often than not it is a female whose voice comes from a near-by area, but is unattached to a body or form. Usually when I hear her it is just like she is sitting next to me or laying behind me in bed.”

Anonymous

“I hear whispered or low-volume voices/sounds. Sometimes it sounds like one voice and sometimes it sounds like multiple voices in unison. Usually just a repeated word or couple of words. It is usually a two syllable word, most often the word “today”, though the emphasis is always on the first syllable regardless of the word and the normal emphasis of the word. The only exception is when I hear my own name.”

Anonymous

Hearing voices: Definitions

The term ‘hearing voices’ describes experiences like the above which are very real to the person, do not feel within their control, and are not shared by anyone else.

While there are many different kinds of voice-hearing experience, this site focuses mostly on voices that occur over a period of time (not just once or twice), have a significant impact on people’s lives, and are seen as in some way out of the ordinary. For the most part, what you read here will not be directly relevant to understanding ‘involuntary auditory experiences’ like tinnitus, musical hallucinations or earworms; inner speech or your own inner voice; or ‘hypnagogic’ and ‘hypnopompic’ hallucinations, which only happen on the borders of sleep.

You may have heard hearing voices referred to as ‘auditory hallucinations’ or ‘auditory verbal hallucinations’. These are words used in a clinical, or medical context. ‘Hallucination’ refers to perceiving something which is not present. Hallucinations can occur in all five senses – hearing, sight, taste, smell and touch – or can involve multiple senses at the same time. Some voice-hearers find the term ‘hallucination’ a useful way of distinguishing the voices they hear from external sounds or from everyday inner speech. Others argue that it invalidates the reality of their experience and implies that voice-hearing is a symptom of a mental disorder – which not everyone agrees with.  A wide variety of terms are used by people who hear voices, including: ‘intuitive knowing,’ ‘telepathic experience,’ ‘inserted thoughts,’ ‘intrusive thoughts,’ ‘hearing voices, seeing visions, and having other unusual experiences,’ ‘neuro-diverse experiences,’ ‘amplified sensory interactions,’ ‘spirits’, ‘guardian angels’, ‘alters,’ ‘parts,’ and ‘system members.’

We know that no term will adequately reflect the variety of people’s experiences. We’ve chosen to use the terms ‘hearing voices’ and ‘voice-hearer’ on this site because it’s what most people we spoke to feel most comfortable with.

 

EXPLORE

This module explores four themes: what it’s like to hear voices, how common they are, the link between voices and psychiatric diagnosis, and the different ways in which people interpret or find meaning in voice-hearing experiences. You can click on the buttons below to find out more.

Further resources

About Voices from Intervoice. Intervoice is a charity, registered in the UK, that aims to support the International Hearing Voices Movement by connecting people, sharing ideas, distributing information, highlighting innovative initiatives, encouraging high quality respectful research and promoting its values across the world.

About Voices and Visions from the Hearing Voices Network (HVN). HVN is a UK charity which offers information, support and understanding to people who hear voices and those who support them.

Mosaic (2014). Voices in the Dark: The people who hear voices. Wellcome Trust. 52 minutes.

The Why Factor (2018) Why do People Hear Voices in Their Heads? BBC World Service. 23 minutes.

BBC Radio 4 (2018). Hearing Voices in the UK. BBC. 28 minutes.

Visit the world’s first major exhibition on hearing voices online. Hearing Voices: Suffering inspiration and the everyday features a wide range of artworks, artefacts, and podcasts about many aspects of hearing voices.

Canal Futura/L4 Films (2017). Ovidores de Vozes (Hearing Voices). Youtube. 52 minutes.

Like Minds (2018). What it’s like to hear voices? BBC. 10 minutes.

BBC Three (2018). The Voices in My Head. BBC Three. 49 minutes.

Angela Woods, Nev Jones, Ben Alderson-Day, Felicity Callard, and Charles Fernyhough (2015). Experiences of hearing voices: analysis of a novel phenomenological survey. The Lancet Psychiatry. This study analysed the experience of hearing voices in 153 adults. It shows that people hear lots of different kinds of voices, some with strong characterful qualities.

Angela Woods and Ben Alderson-Day (2015). Hearing voices? Don’t assume that means schizophrenia. The Conversation.

Hearing the Voice. Hearing the Voice is an interdisciplinary study of voice-hearing based at Durham University and funded by the Wellcome Trust.

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