Hearing voices is a term used to describe the experience of hearing someone or something talking when the source of the voice is not directly present. Some people also hear other noises and sounds. There are a number of different terms used to describe this experience, including 'voice-hearing' or 'auditory hallucinations'.
Hearing voices is more common than people realise. About 10% of people report that they have heard voices at some time in their life.
Some people describe hearing pleasant voices, but for many people the voices are unwanted, intrusive, negative, critical or threatening. People often say that these difficult voices can make them feel worried, frightened, down, embarrassed or frustrated. They can also make it hard to concentrate or be around other people, or get in the way of doing day-to-day things.
The experience of hearing voices can be very different from person to person, and it can change over time. Voices might be experienced inside the head, or outside the head. They might be the voice of someone recognisable or familiar, or be unknown. There might be many voices, or just one or two. They can be loud, or quiet like a whisper. Sometimes they are just brief and sometimes very persistent.
When hearing voices is causing distress or getting in the way of living life, there are treatments that may be helpful. At the Voices Clinic we research and deliver psychological therapies (sometimes referred to as ‘talking therapies’) and support in methods of self-managing hearing voices.
These aim to help reduce the problems and distress caused by hearing voices so people can be less bothered by them and get on with life.