colorful_sound_waves-wallpaper-1280x960What is it like to hear voices that no-one else can hear? And how would you explain that to another person? Hearing the Voice is a research project at Durham University that is aiming to answer questions such as these. The project includes researchers from many different backgrounds, including philosophers, theologians, psychologists, literary theorists, and historians, and together we’re attempting to explore a wide variety of voice, vision, and communication experiences. Although such experiences are sometimes associated with mental illness, we are taking a wider view and listening to different experiences of voice hearing, each on their own terms.

Currently we are on the lookout for participants for our ongoing study on voice-hearing and listening to unusual sounds. For the study we have been touring the country to talk with people who regularly have voice or communication-like experiences, but don’t use mental health services. We’re interested in hearing about a large range of different experiences: for many people they might include spiritual voices or presences, or voices that act as guides or companions. In some cases they might also include experiences of negative or unpleasant voices, but ones that are still manageable and part of someone’s life.

The aim of our study is to learn more about what these experiences are like and how they might work. We’re doing that in two ways. First, we’re doing a face-to-face interview about voice experiences: this would usually be conducted as part of a home visit, and takes about an hour. Second, some of our participants have come for an MRI scanning session at University College, London. The session involves listening to some unusual sounds while in the scanner, and takes 2-2.5 hours (only an hour of this will actually be in the scanner). All participants receive a gift voucher for taking part (£20 for interview/£40 for scanning).

If you have frequent experiences of voices and think you might like to take part, please get in touch with us by email or phone (+44 0191 3348163). And it doesn’t matter where you are in the UK! So far we’ve had participants take part from Argyle to Sussex, and we’re happy to support people’s travel & accommodation costs for getting to and from London.

If you would like to know more about the topic, some members of our team helped to put together a review on voice-hearing in people without need for care: it’s free to read here. If you like to hear about future studies on similar topics, we also have an email list for people with spiritual voices.