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Definition of an auditory hallucination

Feb, 06, 2024

Auditory hallucinations are a condition where sounds are perceived without an external stimulus. While this condition is commonly associated with schizophrenia and similar psychotic disorders, it is not always exclusively linked to them. In fact, individuals with a hearing impairment may also experience auditory hallucinations. 

Causes of auditory hallucinations

Auditory hallucinations can often be triggered by excessive consumption of alcohol, medications or toxic substances. However, psychological disorders, neurological diseases and hearing impairments are also a common cause. This condition can be particularly distressing, especially for individuals who hear voices dictating their actions.


Auditory hallucinations, commonly known as "hearing voices", are a common symptom in psychiatric conditions, with as many as 75% of schizophrenia patients reporting having experienced them. This symptom also manifests in patients suffering from bipolar and unipolar depression and personality disorders


Doctors often do not classify the typical buzzing or hissing associated with tinnitus as hallucinations. However, individuals with tinnitus may also experience auditory hallucinations, particularly during a depressive episode. 

Hearing loss

It is quite common for inviduals experiencing hearing loss in one or both ears to perceive sounds, music and voices that do not originate from any real external sources. 


The excessive consumption of alcohol can exacerbate this symptom by inducing visual as well as auditory hallucinations, causing individuals to consitently perceive nonexistent sights and sounds. Over time, this symptom tends to intensify, particularly among long-term heavy drinkers. 


Certain substances, such as ecstasy and LSD, that alter sensory perception can elicit visual and auditory hallucinations. 


When seizures impact the specific area of the brain responsible for auditory processing, individuals may experience auditory hallucinations, from buzzing noises to hearing voices that are not there. Additionally, in some cases, these seizures can lead to altered auditory perceptions.

High fever and infections

High-fevers and infections, such as encephalitis and meningitis, can also induce auditory hallucinations, often accompanied by a range of symptoms. 

Intense stress

After experiencing a traumatic event or injury, severe stress can also induce auditory hallucinations. Surprisingly, it is especially common to hear the voice of a loved one after their passing under these conditions.


Individuals who suffer from severe migraines may experience auditory hallucinations, often manifested in the form of voices. 

Medicinal side effects.

You may experience auditory hallucinations following a new therapy or an increase in the dosage of a medication. This is particularly common among the elderly population. 

Sleep problems

It is common to perceive nonexistent noises as you fall asleep or wake up. Typically, this is nothing to worry about. However, if you are experiencing irregular sleep patterns, such as in random times and places (narcolepsy), or have difficulty falling asleep (insomnia), the likelihood of experiencing this auditory hallucinations may increase. 

Thyroid disease

Myxoedema is a rare condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones, leading to dangerously low hormone levels. This life-threatening condition may also induce auditory hallucinations.

What are musical hallucinations?

Musical hallucinations are another form of auditory hallucinations, characterised by the persistent presence of music instead of the typical ringing sensation. This condition can be induced or exacerbated by stress, epilepsy and substance abuse.

Treatment of auditory hallucinations

In cases where these hallucinations are linked to excessive alcohol or drug use, the recommended course of action is detoxification. However, if a medication is the cause, it is best to consult your doctor to identify the correct treatment plan. If the undelying cause is a psychological condition, such as schizophrenia, treatment will also need to discussed with your doctor. Alternatively, if a hearing impairment is the cause of these hallucinations, a hearing aid may be the best solution.

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