A voice hearer is someone that hears voices or noises that other people do not. It may or may not be associated with a mental health problem. Voice hearing is still a very stigmatized experience largely because it is so misunderstood, as a voice hearer myself i hope this helps you to understand...
1 - It is more common than you think
Most people are so shocked when i tell them that i hear voices, and they act as if I'm a freak sent from Mars, but actually, its a fairly common experience. According to the mental health foundation, it is estimated that between 5% and 28% of the general population hears voices that other people do not.
To put that in perspective, 10% of people are left handed. In other words it's potentially more common to have an experience of hearing voices than it is to be left handed.
2 - It does not mean I have schizophrenia
I have lost count of the amount of times friends and family have said that i must be schizophrenic if i hear voices. No. Hearing voices is an experience, NOT an illness.
3 - Hearing voices does NOT make me violent
One of my ex-best friends thought that my voices were going to tell me to kill her children... as ridiculous as that sounds, i have lost a lot of friends because they just don't understand what i am experiencing. I do hear voices, who can be quite negative and commanding, but they have never said i should hurt anyone else. At times the voices i hear have told me to hurt myself, but they have never ever asked me to harm anyone else, and they never will, so please don't assume i have a knife behind my back to stab you with, because my voices really aren't interested in you at all.
4 - Hearing voices is not always a negative experience
Personally all of the voices i hear are negative, but with a lot of people this isn't the case. Some people have voices which comfort them, inspire them or make them laugh and in some cultures, hearing voices is seen as a gift.
5 - Hearing voices doesn't always mean I am unwell
Yes, hearing voices can be part of some mental illnesses, but not always! When i first started to hear voices 5 years ago, they were extremely distressing and i couldn't function, but with time, i learnt how to manage them, and they don't have a negative impact on my life anymore. The voices i hear are constant, but i'm not ill. Its something which i experience constantly, when i am well, and when i am unwell. Some people hear voices, and they don't have any illness at all. Some people hear voices and it doesn't interfere with their day to day life. Everyone is different.
6 - Anyone can experience it
Literally anyone. The person sitting next to you. A family member. A friend. A colleague. A partner. A stranger. Anyone at all regardless of ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality, occupation, religion etc. And it doesn't make them any less of a person.
7 - Every voice hearer is different
Some people hear positive voices, some people hear negative voices. Some people hear familiar voices, and some people hear voices that they don't recognize. Some people hear 1 voice, some people hear 20. Some people hear voices for a couple of months and then never again, some people hear them constantly for years. Each persons experience is unique to them.
8 - It doesn't stop me from living a full and functional life
Yes i hear voices, but that doesn't stop me from having fulfilling relationships with friends and family. It doesn't make me unpredictable, I am fully able and capable of doing everything I do. I currently hold many volunteering roles with different charities at the same time as doing a full time course at university.
9 - Hearing voices does not define me
I am a voice hearer and i am not ashamed of that. But i am also a student mental health nurse, an advocate, a friend, a sister, a daughter, an aunt, a campaigner, an activist and so much more. Hearing voices is one aspect of me, but it is not everything.