For a long time, people thought that only the insane and ill hear things that aren’t there. Good thing opinions can be changed, and in modern days if you tell your doctor you’re hearing things, you won’t be sent to the next asylum or even the next therapist- instead you might be told you’re having auditory hallucinations.
Auditory hallucinations is, simply put, when you hear things that aren’t there- “auditory” might sound familiar from audiobooks or film audio. This can be full blown voices but also just bangs, rushing, a ringing in your ears (although this could also be attributed to titinnus). Many people have some degree of auditory hallucinations at one point in their life, even without realizing. Auditory hallucinations can be caused by stress, mental illness, infections or other physical illness and many more factors. So it might not be a necessarily healthy thing, but it’s definitely not something to panic about.
I’ll have to admit: I panicked. I’ve had some degree of auditory issues most of my life, in the form of ringing so intense I’ve spent most of my life with headphones on and can’t sleep at night because it’s simply so loud. I never really noticed it, beyond feeling guilty that I’m missing out on life because I spent it all in my music. During my high school years, when the stress finally became overwhelming, the hallucinations intensified to loud bangs and crashes. Teachers began taking notice when I’d jump in shock in silent exam halls.
The first thing to do is to talk to your doctor. Beyond finding the reason behind your auditory hallucinations, doctors can prescribe treatment or at least advise some way to make the symptoms easier to live with. Depending if the cause is physical or mental, you could take meds or be sent on to a therapist- if you already have one, it’s of course best to talk to your current therapist as well, particularly if you have depression or anxiety (these are mental illnesses commonly associated with auditory issues). No matter what, your doctor is the place to start, even if you feel nervous reaching out. They might catch a serious issue you hadn’t considered.
As mentioned, what I did and what helps a lot of people with auditory issues is listening to music. The problem with this is that listening to music over long periods of time can be really damaging- I’ve developed aches in my ears and skull from wearing headphones for hours. Find headphones that fit and that you can wear comfortably. It’s worth shelling out for them. And no matter what you do, don’t listen to music at loud volumes especially over a long time. It might be tempting to “drown out the noise” but really you don’t need to drown it out- your music just needs to be loud enough to distract you. Permanent hearing damage really isn’t worth it- and it won’t stop the auditory hallucinations anyway.
Another issue many people with auditory issues have is sleeping. Who could go to sleep when the world is banging and rushing and shrilly whistling around them? Again, your best bet isn’t to drown or block it out- ear plugs will do absolutely nothing but stop the distracting real sounds. Instead, use a white noise machine to create calming sounds that can distract you and send you into slumber. Otherwise, there’s an endless supply of “sleep/meditation sounds” on YouTube and a variety of free apps, all of which will produce noise more calming than high-pitched ringing so you can get some sleep.
There are many mental illnesses associated with auditory issues. ADHD and autism can sometimes be a cause for ringing in your ears, and depression and anxiety for voices, bangs and other hallucinations. If you’ve already been diagnosed, tell everyone in charge of your mental health about your auditory issues so they can help you deal with it, and maybe even provide you with medication if they think you need it. If you haven’t, telling your therapist might contribute to you getting a proper diagnosis.
Note down everything. What kind of noise did you hear? When? Was it a stressful situation? How did you react to the noise? Did you get any physical symptoms like a headache? Jotting these things down isn’t just useful to later tell your doctors, it can help you find a pattern and can have a calming effect. It might also help you personally find your own solutions, for example by knowing when the stress is getting too much so you can cancel a few plans.
Appreciate subtitles as the gift they are. Dialogue can be especially difficult for all those with auditory issues, especially those with ADHD or autism, or people with auditory processing issues as well as hallucinations. Even if you don’t have processing issues, subtitles are a sure way not to lose the plot over an imaginary bang, any they help you confirm if what you heard was part of the movie or part of your mind. Download subtitle tracks (steer clear of sketchy websites) or use legal sites like Amazon Prime or Netflix.
Remember that this isn’t something to be ashamed of or something you have to keep a secret. Many people have auditory issues or hallucinations, and the cause can be as simple as ordinary stress. You certainly aren’t going mad, and being ashamed and panicking won’t help you get help or the right diagnosis. Stay positive about it and if it’s seriously damaging your quality of life, see if there’s anything your doctor can do, be it surgery, medication or therapy.
Auditory hallucinations can be scary, both because you’re hearing things that aren’t there and because what you’re hearing might be alarming, be it voices or loud noises. It might not be normal, but it isn’t something to be scared about, and your doctor will probably know what to do, or to send you to an expert. Don’t expect to have to deal with it all alone, and don’t feel like you have to hide it. The sooner you talk about it to someone the sooner you’re likely to find a good way to handle it.
Teenagers With Experience is an organisation created to provide teenagers worldwide with an online platform to share their own experiences to be able to help, inform and educate others on a variety of different topics. We aim to provide a safe space to all young people. You can contact us via email, social media or our contact form found on our home page.