Why Does The Sound Of Your Own Recorded Voice Bother You So Much?

Yep, sorry, that's how you actually sound. Cookie Studio/Shutterstock

There's not a person alive who likes to listen to a recording of their own voice. Even if you sound like honey poured over thunder, the voice you hear played back on a speaker certainly doesn’t sound like the voice you've heard coming out of your mouth for all these years.

This strange phenomenon isn’t you being insecure about your vocal inadequacies, there’s a logical reason why our voice sounds so different – and god awful – on recordings.

We hear sounds by vibrations being picked up by our eardrum. The vibrations are sent to three bones in the middle ear and then finally to the cochlea, a snail-shaped organ that turns the vibrations into nerve signals. We perceive external sounds, like a beeping car or a radio, through sound waves passing through the air into our ear canals, into our inner ear, and on to our cochlea. When our voice is played back to ourselves via a speaker, we are hearing air-conducted vibrations. 

It’s a bit different, however, if the sound is coming from our own vocal chords. A lot of what we hear when we speak is perceived in the same way as external noise, but we also pick up on vibrations that have come through our jaw bone and skull. This is known as inertial bone conduction, an effect you can demonstrate if you bang a tuning fork and place the handle against your skull.

This also alters the quality of the sound you hear. Bone conduction tends to “bring out” the lower-frequency vibrations, making your voice sound deeper and less squeaky than it actually is. In all likelihood, the fact you don’t like the sound of it is simply because you are not used to it.

You can try out the opposite effect for yourself simply but sticking your fingers in your ears, so you hear only the bone-conducted vibrations and block out the air-conducted vibrations. You’ll notice your voice sounds a lot deeper than normal.

Unfortunately, the depressing reality is that the awful noise you hear when you play back a recording of your voice is actually how your voice sounds to the 7.6 billion other humans on Earth.

Sorry about that, folks.

 

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