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both physiology and psychology play a role, according to a surgeon.

by nashia baker
june 16, 2021

even those people who love to sing along to their favorite songs in the car will tell you that listening back to a recording of their own voices can be cringeworthy. as it turns out, there's a scientific reason behind this reaction. neel bhatt, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at the university of washington, told cnn that his work as a surgeon usually involves him recording his patients with voice problems to determine if his treatments went smoothly. however, this process always tends to end with this question from patients: "do i really sound like that?"

woman on phone with headphones on

bhatt explained that the dislike of the sound of our own voices is physiological and psychological. first off, audio recordings translate differently to your brain than the sound you are used to when speaking. the sound from an audio device goes through the air and then in your ear (also known as air conduction). in turn, the sound energy impacts the ear drum and bones. from there, your ear bones transmit the sound vibrations to your cochlea. he noted that this triggers your nerve axons that will signal sound to your brain.

speaking, on the other hand, allows sound to travel into your inner ear from an internal path through your skull. some sounds will go through the air conduction process, but it is truly a balance between external and internal. the latter means you hear your voice in a lower frequency, usually which signals a sound deeper and richer in tone. so, your recorded voice tends to seem higher and thinner.

another reason why people don't like their recorded voices? bhatt said it's brand-new and grounds you with the reality of how you sound versus how you perceive your voice. since it is a part of self-identity, he explained that it can be uncomfortable to feel like what others hear from you is not connected to how you think you present yourself. and simply put, people are just not used to hearing themselves differently. in fact, in a 2005 study published on john wiley & sons, those who experienced voice issues and listened to recordings of themselves thought negatively about their recorded voices in comparison to their clinicians. all in all, bhatt noted not to be too hard on yourself, as the sound you hear is just personal preference, and those around you still love the way you sound.


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