What is hearing voices?

Hearing voices is a common type of auditory hallucination. Hallucinations are sensations or perceptions that occur in a wakeful state and seem real, but are created by the brain. Overall, auditory hallucinations are the most common type of hallucination. These can include familiar sounds, unusual noises, even human voices. The voices in auditory hallucinations can be pleasant or threatening.

Hearing voices can be associated with some psychiatric disorders or medical conditions. Psychiatric conditions associated with hearing voices include bipolar disorder, psychotic depression, schizoid and schizotypal personality disorders, and schizophrenia. Medical conditions affecting the central nervous system, such as brain tumors, delirium, dementia, epilepsy and other seizure disorders, and stroke, can be associated with hearing voices. Voices may also be associated with high fevers.

Some people abuse certain substances because those items can cause hallucinations, including hearing voices. Auditory and other hallucinations can also be associated with other substances, such as alcohol, when used in large quantities or during withdrawal. They can also be a side effect of some medications and may occur with hearing loss, sleep deprivation, or severe fatigue.

The specific cause of hallucinations, including hearing voices, is not known.

Hearing voices can be a symptom of serious, and even life-threatening, conditions. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you cannot distinguish the voices from reality or if the voices are accompanied by bluish coloration of the lips or fingernails; chest pain or pressure; cold, clammy or dry, hot skin; confusion or loss of consciousness for even a moment; high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit); persistent vomiting; rapid, slow or absent pulse; respiratory or breathing problems, such as rapid or slow breathing, shortness of breath, or no breathing; seizure; serious injury; severe abdominal pain; or threatening, irrational or suicidal behavior. Also seek immediate medical care if the voices you hear are telling you to harm yourself or others.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for a condition associated with hearing voices and your symptoms are persistent, worsen, or otherwise cause you concern.


What other symptoms might occur with hearing voices?

Hearing voices may accompany other symptoms that vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the brain may also involve other body systems.

Psychological and cognitive symptoms that may occur along with hearing voices

Hearing voices may accompany other psychological or cognitive symptoms including:


What causes hearing voices?

The specific cause of hallucinations, including hearing voices, is not known, but they can be associated with some psychiatric disorders or medical conditions. Substance abuse and withdrawal, medication side effects, sensory loss, sleep deprivation, and severe fatigue can also be associated with hearing voices. Read more about hearing voicescauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mental Health and Behavior