Why Does Your Voice Sound so Different on a Recording?

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Anyone who has ever heard themselves on a recording knows what it's like to cringe at your own voice. Because your skull's acoustics lower the frequency of your voice's sound waves, you perceive your voice as deeper and more resonant than it actually is.

Hear Me, Hear Me

Is there anything worse than listening to your own voice on tape? "Is that really what I sound like?" asks everyone who has heard himself, ever. Unfortunately, the answer is yes. When you listen to a recording of your voice, that voice is unaffected by what's called bone conduction. When you speak, you hear your own voice through "vibrations inside your skull set off by your vocal chords," according to the BBC. "Those vibrations travel up through your bony skull and again set the ear drum vibrating. However as they travel through the bone they spread out and lower in pitch, giving you a false sense of bass. Then when you hear a recording of your voice, it sounds distinctly higher." When you hear a recording, you hear what everyone else hears—and for most people, that's not pleasant.

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Why People Should Know

It's a relief, sort of, to know that the cringe-worthy factor of hearing your own voice isn't in your head. And bone conduction is playing a starring role in new tech, too, so it helps to understand it. Take bone conduction headphones, which, as Engadget explains, "delivers audio as sound vibrations to your inner ear through the bone, bypassing the eardrum entirely."

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Editors' Picks:

Why Do I Hate The Sound Of My Own Voice?

A more in-depth look at why your voice makes you cringe.

Key Facts In This Video

  1. When played back on a recording, your voice sounds higher and tinnier than the one you hear when speaking. 00:16

  2. Your skull lowers the frequency of the vibrations made by your voice. 00:41

  3. Most people dislike the sound of their own voice on recordings because they're accustomed to the deeper version conducted by their bones. 01:24

Why Do I Sound Different On A Recording?

What you are hearing inside your head isn't accurate.

Why Do Things Sound Scary?

How do specific noises elicit such fear?

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Fear is an instinctual response that helped our ancestors to survive and reproduce. 01:22

  2. Your sense of hearing is never truly shut off, even when you're asleep. 02:33

  3. Scary movies tend to contain more nonlinear sounds, such as rapid frequency jumps and nonstandard harmonies. 03:46

Written by Curiosity Staff January 1, 2017

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