Auditory Hallucinations During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Hospitalized Patients

Julia Lebovitz, BA candidate

Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Auditory Hallucinations During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Hospitalized Patients

Scientific Abstract


Background: The content of auditory hallucinations (AHs) is malleable and reflects the environment and culture experienced. Past research indicates that the content of AHs varies across time periods and is shaped by people’s beliefs about the AHs. Early evidence suggests that economic and social stress as well as viral exposure caused by the novel Coronavirus-19 (COVID-19) have triggered the onset of psychosis in patients; research has not yet determined how the phenomenology of AHs has changed since the COVID-19 outbreak (Brown et al., 2020).

Methods: Adult psychiatric inpatients participated in a mixed methods research study. They completed two self-report questionnaires (Varieties of Inner Speech Questionnaire Revised, R- VISPQ; Tellegen Absorption Scale, TAS) and an hour long virtual qualitative interview regarding the phenomenology of their AHs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Result: A total of 10 participants have currently completed the study protocol at this time; an additional 10 participants will be recruited. The sample is middle-aged (M = 50.44) and have been hearing voices for over a decade (M = 16.5). High levels of absorption (TAS; M = 21.83) and high levels of inner speech subfactors (R-VISPQ; Dialogic: M = 15.33; Condensed: M = 8.67; Evaluative: M = 22.00; Other people: M = 15.33; Positive: M = 9.33) are noted. Thematic analysis identified that COVID-19 was present in the content of AHs, shaped the paranoid ideation, and for some, increased the frequency and loudness of the AHs. At least 33% of participants reported increased paranoia caused by COVID-19. Two participants felt that the recent social isolation caused their AHs to be more distressing.

Conclusion: Our results suggest that COVID-19 is associated with the content of AHs, but this association of COVID-19 on AHs was not uniform across participants. The potential effects of social isolation, financial insecurity, and increased domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic may negatively affect individuals with psychosis. Understanding how COVID-19 has impacted AHs may provide insights into how societal factors may affect the pathology of distressing AHs.

Live Zoom Session – April 21st

research Areas


Julia Lebovitz, Tanya M. Luhrmann, PhD, Christopher G. AhnAllen, PhD

Principal Investigator

Christopher G. AhnAllen, PhD