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Do you hear voices in your head while reading a book? You are not alone then, says study

Per the study, experiencing auditory hallucinations while reading is not rare at all.

Do you hear voices in your head while reading a book? You are not alone then, says study
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Olly

If you’ve ever heard a strange inner voice whispering and mumbling while reading, you’re not alone. It’s not a hallucination or anything superstitious—science has a proper explanation. A study published in the journal Psychosis on April 29, 2015, found that hearing an inner voice while reading is quite common.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | mentalhealthamerica
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Mentalhealthamerica

New York University’s Professor of Psychology, Ruvanee Vilhauer, led the study and discovered that over 80% of people hear an “inner voice” while reading. This phenomenon, known by various names such as “inner monologue,” “paracusia,” and “subvocalization,” is termed the “inner reading voice (IRV)” by Vilhauer.

Vilhauer analyzed the connection between the “inner reading voice” and auditory hallucinations, which are sounds perceived without an external stimulus. According to the Cleveland Clinic, these hallucinations occur when one hears non-existent voices. Vilhauer’s study specifically focused on the auditory hallucinations people experience while reading.


Vilhauer evaluated 160 answers from an online survey to examine the human reading experience. Her findings revealed that 82.5 percent of people hear a voice when they read, and that these IRVs are characterized by the “auditory qualities of overt speech, such as recognizable identity, gender, pitch, loudness and emotional tone.”


Among those who heard an inner voice, 13% said it happened only occasionally, influenced by factors like their interest in the book. Meanwhile, 11% reported never hearing an inner voice while reading. Some heard their own voices, while others heard the voices of characters inspired by friends, family, emails, and letters.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | tara winstead
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Tara Winstead

“IRVs were sometimes identified as the readers’ own voices, and sometimes as the voices of other people,” Vilhauer wrote. Some people in the study even reported hearing a voice that was “uncontrollable” to them, which is slightly chilling.

In another study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, Vilhauer used questionnaires to assess the same phenomenon in 570 volunteers. 4 out of 5 people reported hearing IRV when reading. The remaining 20 percent said they simply “understood words being read without hearing an inner voice.”

Representative Image Source: Pexels | juansinag
Representative Image Source: Pexels | juansinag

Of those who did hear an IRV, 34.2 percent said they heard this voice every time they read something, while 45 percent heard it “often” or “sometimes.” Interestingly, 19 percent said they could choose whether to activate their IRV or keep it muted while reading. 35.6 percent of candidates claimed that they were able to control their IRV while 36.5 percent said they could merely alter the volume.


Another study published in PLOS journal found that people usually hear an internal voice with their own accent while reading. This can affect the quality of their reading experience. Pronunciation of vowels and consonants can impact whether poems and limericks rhyme. Thus, IRVs significantly influence how one engages with written art.

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