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Science & Technology

Why do we hate the sound of our own voices ?

May 17, 2021 | Comment icon 49 comments

Most people tend to shun recordings of their own voice. Image Credit: PD - Kane Reinholdtsen
Your voice can sound very different (to you) when recorded and played back, but exactly why is that ?
Neel Bhatt - an Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology at the University of Washington - takes a closer look at the psychological and physiological reasons behind this phenomenon.

As a surgeon who specializes in treating patients with voice problems, I routinely record my patients speaking. For me, these recordings are incredibly valuable. They allow me to track slight changes in their voices from visit to visit, and it helps confirm whether surgery or voice therapy led to improvements.

Yet I'm surprised by how difficult these sessions can be for my patients. Many become visibly uncomfortable upon hearing their voice played back to them.

"Do I really sound like that?" they wonder, wincing.

(Yes, you do.)

Some become so unsettled they refuse outright to listen to the recording - much less go over the subtle changes I want to highlight.

The discomfort we have over hearing our voices in audio recordings is probably due to a mix of physiology and psychology.

For one, the sound from an audio recording is transmitted differently to your brain than the sound generated when you speak.

When listening to a recording of your voice, the sound travels through the air and into your ears - what's referred to as "air conduction." The sound energy vibrates the ear drum and small ear bones. These bones then transmit the sound vibrations to the cochlea, which stimulates nerve axons that send the auditory signal to the brain.
However, when you speak, the sound from your voice reaches the inner ear in a different way. While some of the sound is transmitted through air conduction, much of the sound is internally conducted directly through your skull bones. When you hear your own voice when you speak, it's due to a blend of both external and internal conduction, and internal bone conduction appears to boost the lower frequencies.

For this reason, people generally perceive their voice as deeper and richer when they speak. The recorded voice, in comparison, can sound thinner and higher pitched, which many find cringeworthy.

There's a second reason hearing a recording of your voice can be so disconcerting. It really is a new voice - one that exposes a difference between your self-perception and reality. 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.

Even though we may actually sound more like our recorded voice to others, I think the reason so many of us squirm upon hearing it is not that the recorded voice is necessarily worse than our perceived voice. Instead, we're simply more used to hearing ourselves sound a certain way.

A study published in 2005 had patients with voice problems rate their own voices when presented with recordings of them. They also had clinicians rate the voices. The researchers found that patients, across the board, tended to more negatively rate the quality of their recorded voice compared with the objective assessments of clinicians.

So if the voice in your head castigates the voice coming out of a recording device, it's probably your inner critic overreacting - and you're judging yourself a bit too harshly.

Neel Bhatt, Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology, UW Medicine, University of Washington

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

Read the original article.The Conversation

Source: The Conversation | Comments (49)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #40 Posted by joc 1 year ago
If you really want to hear yourself the way you really sound ...cup your hands over your ears with your thumbs on the back of your ears. Talk in a normal voice or better yet...sing! Now you can really h e a r yourself!
Comment icon #41 Posted by third_eye 1 year ago
And now... Your complete attention... [00.01:41] ~
Comment icon #42 Posted by Xeno-Fish 1 year ago
O-possum wrasslin' round hur.
Comment icon #43 Posted by joc 1 year ago
Sounds pretty normal to me.
Comment icon #44 Posted by lightly 1 year ago
Regional accents are great ! I love hearing the differences around this country . Sad theyare fading away, very slowly. i've been told by southerners that I ,in N. MI. ,sound like a Canadian.
Comment icon #45 Posted by Desertrat56 1 year ago
My friend from Denver has the same accent as my friend from Quebec, though my friend from Quebec's accent is less noticeable.
Comment icon #46 Posted by lightly 1 year ago
Hmm, seems odd, maybe the Denver friend is the grandson of a French Canadian fur trapper... From Quebec. ? isn't French the provinciallanguage dueQuebec?
Comment icon #47 Posted by Desertrat56 1 year ago
No, my friend from Quebec spoke French at home and went to an english school so her accent is just Canadian english, or maybe northern American english. If people don't know she if from Canada they think she is from one of the north western states. There is a definite accent for those on the North east coast. You can almost tell what state they are from even though those states are small and crammed with people. But I did notice that the accents all over the U.S. have become more homogenized since the 70's. I heard my daughter's boss from Boston not long ago when he was doing a zoom mee... [More]
Comment icon #48 Posted by Essan 1 year ago
Aye! When I look in the mirror I see Brad Pitt staring back. When I see myself on TV I look more like Danny DeVito. And sound like Joe Pasquale
Comment icon #49 Posted by Hammerclaw 1 year ago
In Scotland in the 1640s, theCovenantersrejected rule by bishops, often signing manifestos using their own blood. Some wore red cloth around their neck to signify their position, and were called rednecks by the Scottish ruling class to denote that they were the rebels in what came to be known asThe Bishop's Warthat preceded the rise ofCromwell.[28][29]Eventually, the term began to mean simply "Presbyterian", especially in communities along the Scottish border. Because of the large number of Scottish immigrants in the pre-revolutionary American South, some historians have suggested that t... [More]

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