Have you ever heard yourself recorded on a voice memo and asked people, “Do I really sound like that?” You’re not alone. There are many people out there who get uncomfortable when they hear the sound of their voice, and there are some excellent reasons why.
The big reason is that the voice we hear when we speak sounds different than it does to other people and on recordings.
The voice we hear when we’re speaking is a mixture of the sound transmitted through the air, known as air conduction, and the sound we hear internally, which is a combination of vibrations from airways, vocal cords and bones inside the head.
These internal vibrations make our voices sound deeper than are in reality.
“When we talk, it’s like everyone hears the sound through speakers, but we’re hearing it through a cave complex inside our own heads,” Martin Birchall, professor of laryngology at University College London, told Time. “The sound is going around our sinuses, all the empty spaces in our heads and the middle part of our ears, which changes the way we hear sounds compared to what other people hear.”
Here’s why you hate the sound of your own voice
However, when you hear a recording of your voice, the sound travels through the air into your ears, where it vibrates small ear bones. These vibrations are then sent to the cochlea, which sends an auditory sound to the brain.
These two distinct processes are the reason why people always think that their voice sounds different on a recording. “The voice that you hear on a tape recorder is actually how your voice sounds,” Dr. Yale Cohen, director of the Hearing Sciences Center at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, told Live Science.
There are a few reasons why many people feel uncomfortable hearing a recording of their voice. First, the fact that it sounds different than we think messes with our self-perception. “Because your voice is unique and an important component of self-identity, this mismatch can be jarring. Suddenly, you realize other people have been hearing something else all along,” [name] writes in The Conversation.
People also don’t like hearing the sound of their voice because they don’t listen to it that often.
“Imagine you didn’t have a mirror for six months and you had a perception of what you looked like. Meanwhile, you start eating lots of food and you gain lots of weight. If you [suddenly looked in a mirror], you’d be shocked,” Cohen said.
Lastly, when people hear themselves recorded their voice always sounds thinner and higher pitched than it does in their heads, which makes a lot of folks cringe.
The interesting twist in all of this is that people actually prefer the sound of their recorded voice when they don’t know that it is them. A study from Science Daily, albeit 10 years old, found that people tend to rate their voice as more attractive than others when they don’t know who’s speaking.
So, being that most people like their voices but don’t know it, there’s hope. One way to get over the discomfort is by listening to recordings of yourself often. You will get over the initial shock of it sounding different and begin to feel more comfortable listening to it.
Further, by listening to yourself talk you can make modifications to your voice so it’s more pleasing to yourself and others.