Study: Hearing voices may just mean you have a well-tuned brain

DURHAM, England — Hearing voices may not be a sign of mental illness as much as it’s a clue that a person’s brain is simply well-tuned to many sounds. A new study finds that healthy people who hear voices have differently-wired brains that find speech patterns in other sounds.

Researchers from Durham University studied brain-response differences between two groups of people — those who have experienced hearing voices (auditory verbal hallucinations) and those who have never mistaken other sounds for speech. Participants in the study included 17 people with typical responses to sounds and 12 people who have experienced hearing voices, but do not have any mental health problems.

Stressed out person
Can hearing voices be a good thing? A new study finds that people who are not mentally ill, but often hear speech in sounds may actually have a special skill that comes from having a differently-wired brain than the rest of us.

Participants underwent an MRI brain scan while listening to hidden speech sounds, known as sine-wave speech. Sine-wave speech to the untrained ear would sound something like birdsong or alien-type noises. Typically, people are able to make out these sounds only after they have been clued in to listen for them or taught to decode the hidden speech sounds. After people are trained, though, they can detect simple sentences within the sounds, such as “The clown had a funny face.”

Researchers found that less than half of those with typical listening skills noticed the hidden speech while 75 percent of the voice-hearers picked it up.

“It suggests that the brains of people who hear voices are particularly tuned to meaning in sounds,” says lead author Dr. Ben Alderson-Day in a university release.

Researchers were surprised that the voice-hearers had such strong neural responses to the sounds with hidden speech. Even before being told to listen for hidden speech, voice-hearers reported hearing the voices in the sounds. They found speech-like sounds faster and more easily than those who have never experienced the phenomenon of hearing voices.

“We did not tell the participants that the ambiguous sounds could contain speech before they were scanned, or ask them to try to understand the sounds. Nonetheless, these participants showed distinct neural responses to sounds containing disguised speech, as compared to sounds that were meaningless,” adds co-author Dr. Cesar Lima.

The authors believe this shows that the brains of voice-hearers are more perceptive to the hidden meanings in sounds. The areas of the brain that control attention were quickly activated in the brains of voice-hearers when they were exposed to hidden speech compared to when they were listening to vague sounds.

“These findings are a demonstration of what we can learn from people who hear voices that are not distressing or problematic,” says Alderson-Day.

Between 5 and 15 percent of the population has occasionally had the experience of hearing voices. Although not everyone who hears voices has a mental health problem, it is commonly associated with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Researchers hope their findings could someday help scientists and clinicians find better ways to help those who are troubled by the voices they hear.

The study’s findings were published in the academic journal Brain.


  1. Oh please this study ignores the difference between aural and visual dominate subjects making the results not only suspect but a deduction that is inductive on its own and just plain ignorant.

      1. False premises used.
        Your example is based on a true experience (the real illusion is meant to trick the mind).
        Auditory hallucinations are based on a false experience (never happened).
        They are not the same.

  2. BS.. articles and studies like this do little but speculate on, minimize or trivialize the TRAUMA AND EXPENSE millions of families face when dealing with Bipolar, Schizoaffective, Schizophrenia. In fact a majority of “scientific studies” are done to GRAB research dollars but then RARELY REPRODUCED to validate past findings.

  3. The voice in my head says: “This study, just like the vast majority so called studies, is basically useless made up garbage that can’t be duplicated, isn’t peer reviewed and that its only actual propose is to get a paycheck from whomever was dumb enough to fund it, likely at taxpayer expense.”

    1. They’ll publish anything that either removes the burden of the government to support people, aka patients, or create a new sub sect of people, aka patients, that keep shrinks employed.

  4. The conclusions of the researchers are non-sense. Hearing voices is NOT the result of a sound mind.

    I suspect some, if not all, of the researchers are hearing voices themselves.

  5. Hearing voices just means your ears are working, or if nobody’s in the room you no doubt are a libocrap.

  6. U.S. Democrats have convinced themselves that they hear Russians right around every corner.

    However, contrary to the study findings, their brains are anything but well-tuned.

    See Hillary Clinton, Maxine Waters, Chuck Schumer et al.

  7. Means you are demonically oppressed. Somewhere in your life, you have opened a spiritual doorway to demonic entities. The ONLY true cure is to turn back to God/Jesus and ask Him to protect you. Or take the drugs and mask reality.

  8. Okay, I don’t have credentials to support my statement so I’ll just wonder digitally.. What about the people in dead silence hearing voices? Are they well-tuned? Especially those voices telling them to kill someone or something. This study sounds bogus.

  9. This article is dumb click bait. Of course they were hearing voices, as there was speech in the audio they played. Try telling me that people who hear voices in their daily life, absent disguised speech, are perfectly healthy. I guess “Study: The Ability To Hear Disguised Speech May Just Mean You Have A Well-Tuned Brain”

    Of course NO ONE would read the article unless you trick them to.

  10. When I’m in the shower I sometimes hear voices. Once or twice it was so bad I peaked my head out of the bathroom, still dripping, trying to locate the voices, knowing my husband was not supposed to be home yet and both of my daughter’s were napping . I think it has to do with the running water, the a.c., and probably the acoustics of my house.

  11. Absolutely loving the picture to go with this article. They should have just written the caption as “A Well-Tuned Brain.”

  12. the agenda here is to collect information……and to normalize POSSESSION FROM DEMONS…..and to confuse the evil and the good

  13. I know the voices in my head are not real. …, but sometimes they have really good ideas.

    When I hear them. I know better than to ask others if they hear them, too.

    Not all is bad. I sit alone in the subway.

  14. Back in the ’60s when I was taking abnormal psychology courses, hearing voices was considered a primary symptom of paranoid schizophrenia.

  15. during my most recent MRI, i distinctly heard the magnet say “do it, do it, do it, do it, do, do, do, do…” and then it got really demanding and pushy about it. NOT joking.

    1. That was most likely magnetostriction of your brain. Things may have gotten a little soggy. Avoid iron objects for a week, stay away from compasses and Tesla autos.

  16. My first reaction was “so what?” I guess if they can figure out how to treat those of us who are tortured by hearing voices in their head it may lead to something good. I wonder who is paying for this research. Hopefully that wasn’t in the article as I only skimmed it.

  17. I took a medication one time that had my brain trying to make speech-sense out of very ordinary noises. Wind in the trees, for example, sounded like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. An electric motor would sound like somebody mumbling. They weren’t “voices” so much as the verbal side of my brain trying to pick speech out of noises going by. I thought it was creepy and I stopped taking that stuff.

  18. Interesting. When I was a teenager I used to hear my mother calling me whenever I was mowing the lawn.

    I just ignored it figuring I was “just hearing things.”

    After I had kids of my own I figured out what I was actually hearing was “Shut the damn mower off I’m trying to sleep.”

  19. Yeah and I did another study it showed that 98% of all studies are total bullshit and used to get money so the people doing studies never have to really work.

  20. If it’s true, how many perfectly sane people have been drugged senseless and/or locked up by pshrinks for experiencing this?

  21. This is actually true. The harmonics of all machines noises can resonate in the human mind as words. A fan, has a bearing that is slightly unstable. The resultant noise from it can cause the human brain to try to attempt to put the sound into human speech. It is like the visual of our brain putting together a face on a piece of stone (stone markings) when no face exists in reality. This audible form of machine language has happened to me. Had I not known what it was, I would have been driven mad by it.

  22. This is actually true. The harmonics of all machines noises can resonate
    in the human mind as words. A fan, has a bearing that is slightly
    unstable. The resultant noise from it can cause the human brain to try
    to attempt to put the sound into human speech. It is like the visual of
    our brain putting together a face on a piece of stone (stone markings)
    when no face exists in reality (example – The Face On Mars). This
    audible form of machine language has happened to me. Had I not known
    what it was, I would have been driven mad by it. I reasoned it out. I
    knew this along time ago, scientists. It doesn’t matter, NO ONE WILL LISTEN.

  23. Whatever you want too hear. In my case it is benign. I hear erroneous messages to others in the mi, now. Who am I? I cannot describe it.

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