Why Do We Hate the Sound of Our Own Voice?

If you’re like most people, you likely hate the recorded sound of your own voice.

Why is it that we can hear other people’s voices spanning all pitches, tones, cadences and timbres with no problem, but the first time we hear our own voice is met with a visceral reaction?

It comes down to two factors: the way we our own voice reaches our ears, and the concept of self-image.

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How do we hear our voice?

When we hear the sounds of nature, music, or other people’s voices, the sound reaches us externally.

The noise hits your outer ear, goes through your ear canal, and into the ear drum which transmits the sound waves to signals the brain picks up on as complex sound.

However, when we speak, our voice hits us both externally and internally.

Our own voice vibrates our ear drums and inner ears, but the vibrations created by the internal movements of the vocal cords. The vibration of the vocal cords is carried through your neck, jaw, mouth and skull, and have a richer, deeper sound upon reaching your ear. Your body is a better conductor of low rich tones than the air, which is why we perceive our voice as being smoother and lower than what we hear when we are recorded.

Unfortunately for our self-image, we are the only ones who can hear our voice both externally and internally, which leads to the common disappointment upon hearing your voice stripped of the internality….

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What is self-image?

The second reason we hate our own voice is due to the psychological concept of self-image. Self-image is an elaborate and nuanced topic of discussion, but for simplicity’s sake it boils down to the way we see ourselves, and the way we are perceived by others.

Our visual self-image is made up of our appearance; whether we are tall or short, attractive or unattractive, desirable or trustworthy or striking…

Our auditory self-image is made up of the way we sound. Whether we sound confident or shaky, powerful or meek, nagging or soothing.

Our auditory self-image is developed by the way we hear ourselves, which is both externally and internally. Thus, when stripped of the low rich tones transmitted internally, we are often left with underwhelming results.

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Here is a list of the most popular complaints people make about their own voice upon hearing its recording:

 

  • Whiney
  • High
  • Slow
  • Fast
  • Sloppy
  • Nasal
  • Loud
  • Soft
  • Unclear
  • Immature
  • Unconfident
  • Dry–Monotonous
  • Too expressive
  • Too many pauses
  • Breathy
  • Nervous
  • Garbled
  • Crackly
  • Off-key

What can I do to improve the sound of my own voice?

Remember the reasons we hate the sound of our own voice: self-image and the way our voice reaches us.

We can change our self-image. By listening to your recorded voice, you can pick up on the qualities in your voice you dislike, and work to change them. Author Rob Reid (@Rob_Reid) advocates recording 10 hours of conversation with strangers to pick up on quirks and opportunities for improvement in your speech. While it seems like a lot of recording, this exercise will give you an accurate and total analysis of how strangers perceive you (also known as…..self-image!) You can then work to improve or realign your self-image with reality.

**When listening to your voice’s recordings, make sure you’re using high quality playback devices. Your phone speaker will not give you an accurate representation of your voice. The i90 is a high-fidelity (and highly-attractive) speaker due to a high density composite wood housing.

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Learn More: Which Woods Transmit Audio Best?