Feb 26, 2016 I Paul Seaburn

It’s Not Just You – Others Hear Voices When Reading Too

What? Did you hear that? It sounded like someone said, “What? Did you hear that?” There it is again! It’s not just you hearing it. A new study (in a loose sense of the word) found out that most people hear a voice in their head while they’re reading. What?

The voice in your head while reading is a real thing psychologists refer to as an “inner reading voice” (IRV). Psychologist Ruvanee Vilhauer from New York University decided to find out how many people have it. It sounds like she didn’t have much of a research budget because she got her data from reading (wonder if she heard a voice) Yahoo! Answers - the world’s largest English language Q&A website.


Vilhauer found 24 questions about IRV asked between 2006 and 2014 and 136 answers in which people described their own IRV experiences. Out of that small group, 82.5 percent said they heard a voice while reading (13 percent occasionally, the rest always), 10.6 percent heard nothing and the rest didn’t know.

Of those who heard the voice, half said it was always the same voice and usually their own. The rest heard characters in the story they were reading or the voice of the person who wrote the article or sent them the text. If the voice was annoying or scary, some said they could actually change it (how many chose to hear Morgan Freeman?).

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Some people hear the voices of the characters in the story they're reading

In her report in Psychosis, Vilhauer speculates that there aren’t many other studies about IRV because everyone who hears it thinks everyone else hears it too. She also says that IRV is so common, most auditory hallucinations could probably be blamed on them. If that’s the case, a lot of psychologists could be out of work.

Even though it’s a less-than-scientific study, it’s good news for those who wonder about the voices they hear when reading. It’s nothing to worry about … it’s you.

However, if the voice says, “Are you in there looking at porn again?”, it’s your mother.


Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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