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What is Paracusia?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2016
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Paracusia (plural: paracusiae) is medical term that can be alternately defined as auditory hallucinations. This can include things like hearing voices, hearing distortion of voices, or hearing things like music. Symptoms of paracusia are most noted in conditions like schizophrenia and the manic phase of bipolar disorder, though they can occur for reasons not connected to mental illness.

Experiencing paracusia is often thought of as very negative and a sign of extreme mental illness. This is not always the case. There are a number of people who have suffered hearing loss who continue to hear voices or sounds. Brain lesions that result in hearing loss may have a connection to the condition. At other times brain tumors or brain injury can cause paracusia to emerge, even when a person is mentally stable.

Some people have very mild paracusia, and voices or sounds heard are easily ignored and don’t provide too much distraction from daily living. For others having to cope with sounds and voices that seem very real, and yet aren’t, can create numerous problems. They may cause significant difficulty in concentrating and often a mistaken belief that a person is clearly “mentally ill” because he or she hears voices.

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One organization that has taken an interesting approach to paracusia is the Hearing Voices Network, founded in England in 1988. Though this group clearly understands that auditory hallucinations may be the result of mental illness, they also have taken the approach that many people with auditory hallucinations never manifest other symptoms of mental illnesses. As a result, people may learn through methods like cognitive behavioral therapy to adapt to paracusia and find coping mechanisms for it, especially when stigma associated with the condition is not present.

Auditory hallucinations can be temporary too. If you’ve ever had a high fever you may remember hearing distorted voices or sounds that didn’t truly exist. These extra sounds that you can’t account for can be frightening especially when they are unfamiliar. Moreover, in some cases, it matters what is said as much as the fact that anything being said doesn’t exist. Some people hear consistently negative voices that recommend very dangerous courses of action, like hurting others or hurting one’s self. These hallucinations may be particularly dangerous and may be most associated as manifesting from psychotic conditions.

On the other hand, things heard might be relatively harmless, somewhat annoying, or simply startling. Fortunately, organizations like the Hearing Voices Network have become strong advocates for understanding the many potential causes of paracusia. Nevertheless, if you are experiencing this condition, you shouldn’t dismiss it as wholly benign. Finding out what is causing auditory hallucinations may be tantamount to ending this condition or learning to cope with it.

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