Although hearing voices has traditionally been viewed as 'abnormal' and a symptom of mental illness, the Dutch findings suggest it is more widespread than previously thought, estimating that about 4% of the population could be affected.
Researcher Aylish Campbell said: "We know that many members of the general population hear voices but have never felt the need to access mental health services; some experts even claim that more people hear voices and don't seek psychiatric help than those who do.
"In fact, many of those affected describe their voices as being a positive influence in their lives, comforting or inspiring them as they go about their daily business. We're now keen to investigate why some people respond in this way while others are distressed and seek outside help."
— Red "Redrum! Redrum!" Panda, Light Reading