Hearing voices is a common human experience. Voice hearing is a natural variation of the human experience and is more common than left-handedness. Research shows 4-10% of the population hear voices. The fact that so many people hear voices and are not ill or unwell shows that hearing voices, in and of itself, is not a sign of mental ill health.
At the Hearing Voices Network of WA (HVNWA), we want to ensure all ‘voice hearers’ feel welcome and recognise that ‘voice hearing’ is not the only phenomenon that people experience; when we refer to ‘hearing voices’, we mean the range of different or extreme sensory experiences, including seeing, feeling and smelling.
Hearing Voices Network
The Hearing Voices Network WA (HVNWA) is a Richmond Wellbeing program and part of the global Hearing Voices Movement. We work to spread positive and hopeful messages about the experience of hearing voices and acceptance of all individual differences. HVNWA is a resource for people living in Western Australia who hear voices and experience other unusual perceptions, offering a place for the voice-hearing community to access relevant information, training, and hearing voices support groups.
What is it like to hear voices?
When people think about ‘voices’ they usually think of negative or distressing voices, and forget that voice hearing comes in many forms – tribal voices of healers and shamans, spiritual voices of angels and guides, psychic voices of people on the other side, as well as everyday voices that people hear upon waking or sleeping. Hearing voices can be regarded as a meaningful, real experience that might be better understood in the context of personal circumstances.
Voice experiences are unique to the individual and can include; sound, vision, smell, taste and touch. These can be encouraging and comforting, or confusing and frightening. Voices can be clear or muffled, loud or barely audible. They can be the voices of someone the person knows, a complete stranger, or a non-verbal sound like knocking, scraping, crying or music. Another experience is smell; perhaps a favourite food from the past or a scent from a traumatic experience. Food may appear to have an unusually strong taste. A sense of touch can include feeling as though something is crawling over or under the skin, being tickled or being pushed.