Why Do We Hate The Sound of Our Own Voice?

September 16, 2016

Almost everybody has said or thought it: ‘I just hate the sound of my own voice’. We each hear our own voice more than anyone else’s, so why should this be? Turns out it’s all about anatomy.

sound of own voice

[Image source: Pixabay]

You know the feeling: you record your outgoing voicemail message, play it back to check you didn’t mispronounce your own name, and UGH – is that really what I sound like?!

Since the very first voice recording in 1860, humans have had the opportunity to hear themselves as others hear them; and we frequently abhor it. Tinny, whiny, nasal – we’re hyper-critical of this new perspective on a sound we thought we knew well.

To understand why we sound so different to ourselves, we need to look at the two ways in which our voice is heard – to ourselves, and to others. When others hear us speak, the sound hits their ear drum from the outside. When we hear ourselves, the sound also travels through the inside of our heads, conducted through the bones of the skull before reaching the ear drum. This second pathway amplifies the lower frequency vibrations, resulting in a deeper-sounding voice.

Listening to a recording of ourselves eliminates this second pathway for the sound waves, so we only hear the higher frequency vibrations – no wonder it sounds weird! You can experience the opposite effect by stuffing your fingers into your ears: try it now, sounds deeper right?

fingers in ears - own voice

[Image source: Wikimedia]

It is possible to get used to the ‘real’ sound of your voice, of course. Singers and public speakers must constantly monitor how they sound to others, using recordings and feedback to hone their voice. Getting the balance right for others will not sound ‘right’ inside your own head. There are even websites out there with instructions for how to fix what you think is wrong with your voice.

It may be comforting to know that you are the only one who experiences this incongruity with your voice. Unless your phone voice is dramatically different to your everyday speaking voice, your listening audience has only ever heard you one way; to them, you sound ‘normal’. It’s also nice to know that we all have this weirdness in common, due to our shared vocal anatomy. Rest assured, it isn’t just you – we’re all listening to ourselves through a resonant, echoing bone cave.

SEE ALSO: The Quietest Room in the World: Where Sound Goes to Die

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