Auditory hallucinations

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Auditory hallucinations are a psychological phenomenon relating to the experience of hearing voices. It is, although not always, a sign of mental disorders such as Schizophrenia. It can be treated with medication to some degree.

Auditory hallucinations, and in particular the hearing of a voice, are thought of as particularly characteristic of people suffering from schizophrenia. However, normal subjects also report auditory hallucinations to a surprising extent. For example, Bentall and Slade[1] 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[2] 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.’[3]

This case would be an example of what Posey and Losch[4] 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.

Musical Hallucinations

Some people do not hallucinate voices or noise, they hallucinate music.


Drug Induced



  1. ^ Bentall R.P. and Slade P.D. (1985). Reliability of a scale measuring disposition towards hallucination: a brief report. Personality and Individual Differences, 6, 527 529.
  2. ^ Green and McCreery, Apparitions, op.cit. p.85.
  3. ^ Ibid., pp. 85-86.
  4. ^ Posey, T.B. and Losch, M.E. (1983). Auditory hallucinations of hearing voices in 375 normal subjects. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 3, 99-113.

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