Why do we hate the sound of our own voices?

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We should all know what our voices sound like, right? They are our own voices after all. However, when we hear a recording of ourselves, what we hear rarely matches our expectations. Have you ever heard your voice and said, with disgust, “Do I really sound like that?”

 

Unfortunately, yes, you do. Speaking necessarily distorts how we perceive our own speech in two ways:

 

  1. Rigid bones: Normally, sound waves are captured funneled towards our eardrums. As the eardrum vibrates, it jostles the chain of three tiny bones in the middle ear that amplify the sound, tap on something called the oval window, cause the fluid in the inner ear to slosh, and stimulate nerve-like endings called “hair cells” to create the perception of a sound. However, when we speak muscles attached to the three tiny middle ear bones tense up, a reflex that makes the chain of bones rigid and impairs the conduction of sound waves from the air.
  2. Bone conduction: Sound waves from speech can travel to hair cells via another route that completely bypasses the outer and middle ear. To prove so, try this little experiment: hum for a moment. Now, cover both your ears with your hands and continue to hum. Did the sound get quieter? It shouldn’t have, though the quality of the sound may have changed. This is because making a sound causes the bones of the head to vibrate, which can directly stimulate the cells.

 

So, get it through your skull, literally, you really do sound like that. I know. I’m sad about it too.



Nicholas Norwitz