You know what your own voice sounds like, right? After all, you hear it every time you speak. Yet when it is recorded and played back, it sounds almost completely alien. It's enough to make most people cringe at the very sound. So why is it our voice becomes so different when we hear it from somewhere other than ourselves?
When we talk, vocal cords in our larynx vibrate to produce the sound that we characterize with speech. These vibrations are conducted through the air and into the external ear of the listener, where they make contact with the eardrum, causing it to vibrate. These vibrations then reach the cochlea, which translates them into electrical impulses to then enter the brain via the auditory nerve. Air conduction is how we perceive not just our own voice, but others’ as well.
However, when you hear yourself speak, those vibrations also take another, more direct route to the cochlea. The sound is conducted through the mechanical features of the cranium, including the bone and soft tissues. Traveling through these denser structures, the lower-frequency vibrations become enhanced, leading to a significantly deeper sound reaching the cochlea. When this is perceived by the brain, it, therefore, makes our voice appear fuller, and of a lower pitch, than the original sound made in our larynx.
Sadly, listening to a recording completely eliminates the inner pathway of sound. What is left is an isolated, air-conducted version of your speech that lacks the deeper component resulting from the bone-conducted vibrations – leading to that awful-sounding pitch that you hear.
How Normal Is It?
Although it seems strange when it happens to you, everyone experiences the same thing. If you’re listening to someone talk, chances are they think they sound deeper than they actually do.
Simply remember that the voice you hear through a recording is what everyone else hears all the time, and just seems so different because it is not what you’re used to. So although you may always hate the sound of your own voice, never be concerned – it is entirely normal and likely not nearly as bad as you may think.