A photo of a person wearing a white kabuki style mask with the finger to where their lips would be to indicate to be quiet to represent the topic of the article - Hearing Voices: Invasion Of A Foreign Voice

Hearing Voices: Invasion Of A Foreign Voice

I put out another request for invisible disabilities (mental or physical) that gets overlooked that I could write about. @randhawa_aaron provided me with a suggestion that would go on to become this article on hearing voices. So thank you @randhawa_aaron for your suggestion. I hope this article lives up to what you had in mind.



A screenshot of my twitter conversation about the topic of this article - Hearing Voices: Invasion Of A Foreign Voice
A screenshot of my twitter conversation about the topic of this article - Hearing Voices: Invasion Of A Foreign Voice


What Is Hearing Voices?


Hearing voices is where you hear a voice inside your own head that isn’t your own inner voice and which isn’t a voice someone else can hear (News-Medical.net). Hearing voices like this is a form of hallucination, in fact, it’s the most common form of hallucination (Nidirect).


According to the charity National Hearing Voices Network, between 3-10% of the population hears voices, with that going up to 75% if you include one-off experiences like thinking you’ve heard someone call out your name.


It should be noted that hearing voices isn’t the same as having intrusive thoughts, although both can be equally upsetting (Rethink Mental Illness). However, there’s also a sizable amount of people who hear voices but never seek support for them (Lawrence, Jones, and Cooper, 2010), and I was one such person for many, many years.


The voices you experience when you’re hearing voices can range from being critical, distressing, neutral, complementary, and even nice (Nidirect). How these voices manifest themselves is often a product of the culture you belong to (see below for more on this).




What Can Hearing Voices Be A Symptom Of?


There are lots of reasons why someone might hear voices, ranging from an illness to a temporary experience. The following is a list of some of those reasons.


Falling asleep or waking up

Similar to sleep paralysis, your brain can be halfway into a dream state and semi-conscious at the same time, thus, the voices you hear are really the voices from your dreams.


Sleep deprivation

Tiredness can play tricks on your mind as your brain desperately tries to get the downtime it needs. When you’re overly tired, this can cause a dreamlike state while you’re still awake, which can cause you to hear voices and even see things. I’ve experienced a full range of hallucinations due to insomnia.



Much like being sleep deprived can cause you to see and hear things, so can serious hunger caused by the avoidance or denial of food.



Drug use can definitely make you hear and see things and not just hallucinogenic drugs. Sometimes these effects can last a few days after taking the drugs as well, and for drugs like LCD, you can get flashbacks long afterwards. You can also hear voices and experience other forms of hallucinations on withdrawals from drugs.




Physically being ill

Having a really bad case of the flu, pneumonia, or an infection can cause you to have a high temperature and experience delusions, such as hearing voices and seeing things. Before I had my tonsils removed, every time the condition flared up, and I didn’t take action soon enough, I would experience all kinds of hallucinations.


Stress or worry

You can hear voices if you’re feeling extremely stressed or anxious. One of the triggers for my psychosis is my anxiety disorders going out of control.



It’s possible to think that a loved one that you’ve lost due to bereavement might be calling out to you.



Experiencing abuse can do a lot of damage to a person. As a result, they might start hearing voices, such as the voice of the person who abused or bullied them.



Trauma can cause people to hear voices, especially conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and dissociative disorder.


A photo of a little girl covering her ears in fear


Spiritual experiences

Some people feel like they’ve had a religious or spiritual experience where they’re being talked to, which they will subjectively see as a special experience.


Mental health conditions

There are several mental health conditions that can lead to you hearing voices, such as psychosis, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder (Mind).



As if having dementia wasn’t already horrible enough, people with this condition can also experience auditory hallucinations. Dementia causes changes to the brain and as a result, their sense of perception is altered, which can cause the person to see, hear, feel, and taste things that aren’t there (Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer’s Society).


Hearing loss

According to Linszen et al. (2019), auditory hallucinations are common among people with a hearing impairment, which increases with hearing impairment severity.




Cultural Differences In Hearing Voices


Quite a few years ago, I read an article about how hearing voices was notably different depending on where you were in the world and what culture you came from. So when I took on this topic, I wanted to find some research that covered what I’d read in that article all those years ago. The study I found while doing that research was by Luhrmann, Padmavati, Tharoor, and Osei (2015), which used interviews to gain details of the experiences of 20 participants from three different countries, 60 participants in total. This section of the article will outline and discuss this study.


Mateo, California

Participants from the American sample all reported that they didn’t like the voices they heard. None of the participants reported a predominantly positive experience with their voices, with the participants reporting that their voices were often violent.


Usually, it’s like torturing people, to take their eye out with a fork, or cut someone’s head and drink their blood, really nasty stuff.


Accra, Ghana

Participants from the Accra sample reported different experiences from those from the American sample. In the Ghanaian sample, the participants identified their voices as being spirits, which emphasised the moral action of their voices. These participants treated their voices as being causally powerful. Although, some participants from the sample also reported that they felt like they were under “spiritual attack” by malevolent voices.


However, half the participants reported that their primary or only voice was a good voice, emphasising the good voices over the bad ones. Some of the participants also reported that the good voices would tell them not to respond to the bad voices or that the voices had got better over time.


Mostly the voices are good.

They just tell me to do the right thing. If I hadn’t had these voices, I would have been dead long ago.

They want me to do good things.


Chennai, Indian

More than half of the participants of the Indian sample reported that the voice they heard were of family members, such as parents, mother-in-law, and siblings. The voices of the family that the participants heard could be both good and bad. Furthermore, one participant reported hearing voices of their ancestry, family members who are no longer alive, who offered the client support and companionship.


I have a companion to talk (laughs). I need not go out and speak. I can talk within myself.


It should be noted that although this study involved 60 participants from three countries, it’s still a small study. Furthermore, the cause of the person hearing voices might also be a factor in the perception of whether the voices are good or bad. If you have paranoid schizophrenia, then it’s more than likely that the voices might be bad, because their voices will probably be the product of their paranoid mind.


The picture is split in two with the top image being of a white man with a finger to his lips to indicate being quiet and the bottom image being of a person looking out of a window with headphones on. The two images are separated by the article title - Hearing Voices: Invasion Of A Foreign Voice


The Impact And Effects Of Hearing Voices


I wanted to add this study by Lawrence, Jones, and Cooper (2010) because it provided some interesting insight into the existence of hearing voices in the general population. Lawrence, Jones, and Cooper (2010) study involved 184 participants, mainly from the US and UK, who were found by doing an online quantitative questionnaire. The study found that the general population hadn’t sought professional support for the voices they hear, even though they experienced voices in almost the exact same way as clinical patients who hear voices.


Lawrence, Jones, and Cooper (2010) also proposed that one of the differences between the general population who are hearing voices and those from clinical studies was that those from the general population were more likely to identify the voices they hear as being kindly, therefore there’s less need for them to seek help.


This makes sense, if you’re experiencing voices in your head that aren’t your inner voice, but they’re nice, then you wouldn’t see it as a problem you’d need to talk to someone about. Whereas, if the voices you’re hearing are causing you distress, then you’re going to be more motivated to seek support to make it stop. I didn’t seek support for my hallucinations caused by my psychotic episodes until I was a long way down the rabbit hole.


Hearing voices isn’t the end of the world. Some people will eventually lose the voices that invaded their minds while other people find ways to live with them (Mind).




Being The Loved One Of Someone Who Hears Voices


Understandably, being around someone who hears voices can present a few challenges, especially if you’ve also experienced it yourself, as it might be a trigger for you. Like any condition, a lack of knowledge can be an obstacle that needs to be overcome to help to accept and manage the situation. It can be upsetting because you just don’t know what to do. Furthermore, if the voices they’re hearing are distressing to the person, then you can feel even more confused, worried, and stressed out by the situation.


If you’d like to read some of the stories shared by the loved ones of people who hear voices, then you can do so by clicking here.


A photo of a white hand holding a pair of ear plugs


My Experience Of Hearing Voices


I’ve had auditory hallucinations caused by my anxiety disorders triggering my psychosis, but what I hear isn’t district voices talking to me. What I normally hear when I’m having a psychotic episode is the faint sound of laughter. However, on the occasions that my psychotic episode was triggered by hearing people whisper, then I’d hear voices filling in the content of what I thought they were whispering about, which of course, was always negative comments about me that would feed my psychosis and make my psychotic state worse. Whispering has always been a trigger for me due to the racial abuse I endured during my childhood, with my peers often whispering to each other about me.


Outside of those two kinds of experiences, I’ve never really had any persistent issues with hearing voices. Occasionally I’ll think people are calling my name when I’m listening to music too loudly, but who doesn’t experience that form of hearing voices?


I’ve also worked for someone who hears voices while working at Mind. The person was our area manager and they gave us a talk about how it started for them and how they learned to cope with the voices they heard. It was a really educational talk.


As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences with hearing voices in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget to bookmark my site and if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.


Lastly, if you’d like to support my blog, then you can make a donation of any size below as well. Until next time, Unwanted Life readers.







Lawrence, C., Jones, J., & Cooper, M. (2010). Hearing Voices in a Non-Psychiatric Population. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 38, 363 – 373. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1017/S1352465810000172 and https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Hearing-Voices-in-a-Non-Psychiatric-Population-Lawrence-Jones/e6f12d6b5aba2b3dfd1492da32ae8f9dacd1b3f1?p2df.

Linszen, M., van Zanten, G. A., Teunisse, R. J., Brouwer, R. M., Scheltens, P., & Sommer, I. E. (2019). Auditory hallucinations in adults with hearing impairment: a large prevalence study. Psychological medicine49(1), 132–139. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291718000594.

Luhrmann, T. M., Padmavati, R., Tharoor, H., & Osei, A. (2015). Hearing Voices in Different Cultures: A Social Kindling Hypothesis. Topics in Cognitive Science, 7(4), 646–663. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1111/tops.12158 and https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/tops.12158.




National Hearing Voices Network


Voice Collective

38 thoughts on “Hearing Voices: Invasion Of A Foreign Voice

  1. I recently listened to a podcast that spoke openly about hearing voices and what that was actually like. It was so interesting for me, I’d always assumed it was someone else’s voice you hear like in a movie but it’s not. It really opened my eyes to it and what can trigger it.
    Another great and informative post from you!


  2. This is such an interesting post! I never knew that hearing voices was such a ‘thing’. This makes me wonder if I’m hearing voices which I’m confusing with my own (don’t know if it’s even possible).

    • If it’s not causing you any issues, then it likely doesn’t matter if you are or not. But should that change, then there is help out there to help you manage

  3. Very informative, thank you! My grandma heard voices all the time. I am not sure what they were saying as I never asked.

  4. This was such an interesting read! I always thought that voices might be either bad or good, but didn’t know about the many triggers that could trigger them. I do sometimes hear people calling me when no one is there, but always dismissed them for stress or tiredness. thank you for sharing x

  5. It’s interesting to read that some people view their voices as being good as they tell them to do the right thing and give them companionship. I never thought of it that way!

  6. Thanks for sharing your experience. I had never heard of anyone who had a positive experience with hearing voices, and it’s nice to know that it isn’t always bad.

    I have long suspected my mother hears voices, but she won’t see a doctor for any of her mental health issues, so there’s no formal diagnosis of anything. At the very least, she has conversations out loud with an imaginary friend, and it can be a little unsettling.

  7. Really great post. I love your articles. So informative and I love how much research you put into this one. I didn’t know much about hearing voices before I read this although I have seen a few documentaries about sufferers of this type of thing. This article put it into a better perspective for me. Great work!

  8. wow this was so fascinating to read. i had no idea there were so many causes to this. i’m someone who has very vivid dreams & i’ve had where i hear a loved ones voice or someone i know’s voice during that dream state/ waking up phase.
    i think it’s interesting how you talked about it being a more common thing & that it’s still this taboo thing even professionals can’t quite understand. the human mind is so complex.

    • Indeed, the human mind is complex but it’s also prone to issues because evolution isn’t perfect and so the evolution of our brains hasn’t been perfect either

  9. Putting out calls on social media and seeing the obscure things people ping back with is such a great way to find the small big things that many people are living with and that many of us (like me) do not know about. I appreciate your note that hearing voices is not the same as intrusive thoughts and will have to think on this for a while to decide where my inner voice stands.
    Love that you provide an interesting collective of case studies from different areas too! <3

  10. This was super interesting! I’ve had hallucinations due to insomnia and the occasional hearing voices–especially hearing my name–but I’ve not done a whole lot of research into it. This was an interesting and informative read. I especially enjoyed hearing the significance of hearing voices in cultures!

    • Hearing things and shadowy figures in the corners of my eyes were a low level issue I had for years due to chronic insomnia. Those can really mess with your head after a while

  11. I’ve always been so embarrassed admitting that I sometimes hear voices or whispers and your post helps me know I’m not alone. Whispering is also a big thing for me, it makes me so anxious and my fight or flight often kicks in then with flight winning. Thanks so much for this post.

    • It doesn’t surprise me that you and others would feel embarrassed to share the fact that they hear voices, the only time you see it TV shows and films are when people who hear voices are doing something bad or really suffering as a result of hearing those voices. Whereas, the reality is completely different

  12. Insightful as always. I love all perspectives when it comes to voices. I think we all experience something different. Some are our conscious. Some are creative characters. Some are our ancestors. Some are a sign of mental trauma. How does one really differentiate between them? Again, thank you for talking openly about real issues. I love that you invite questions from your readers! Be well. ✌

  13. This was an interesting read. I don’t know if you have to have a disorder to hear voices or if it could just happen to anyone depending the situation. It has happened to me a lot of times where I would hear my name in a crowd but then when I look around, no one was shouting my name. I absolutely love the details on this post, the cultural voices. That’s just fascinating.

    • Hearing your name being shouted is a common one, which I think is linked to hearing your parents shouting it a lot when calling you or telling you to turn your music down. Plus, our brains are tuned into hearing our name but often certain sounds we’re not paying attention to can cause us to think we’ve heard our name when it’s really just random noise

  14. Very interesting piece, I think I do have multiple inside voices. That’s a good thing or bad thing ?I will be keeping an ear on it. Cheers

  15. This post was really interesting for me as I didn’t know anything about it! I like the deep dive into why we hear voices something I’ve never really experienced! Eye opening piece, thank you!

  16. Very interesting article. It’s fascinating to see how hearing voices is perceived depending on the person’s culture

    • Indeed. That’s one of the things I find so fascinating about it. I also wonder if we can shape society so that people in the west can a less troubling experience if they hear voices

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