On June 30th, 2015 we learned about

Why nobody knows how much better you sound in your head

Despite hearing your own voice every time you speak, you don’t really have a solid sense of what you sound like, or at least what the rest of the world thinks you sound like. The gap between the voice you know, and the voice everyone else hears is thanks to the physics of sound and your head. What’s slightly less clear is why so many prefer the sound in their head over what they share with the world.

When you speak, sing or cluck your tongue, you cause the air in front of your mouth to vibrate. The vibration carries through the air (or other nearby media, if it’s loud enough) until it hits someone’s ear. The ear drum then activates the nerves connected to the auditory portions of their brain, and they hear the sound of your voice. You can affect the quality of the sounds you shape to a degree by training your vocal resonators, such as when you sing with an open through, pushing from your diaphragm, but you’ll still hear a different version of these sounds in your own head.

The change is thanks to the additional medium sound is passing though when you hear yourself speak: your body. As you push sound outwards, you’re still making tissues in your body resonate to shape those sounds, and that sound is transmitted through your head to the ear canal, activating nerves and being registered as sound. But the sound generally has a fuller quality to it, with more bass, thanks to the vibrating bone.

Preference for our personal pitch

When you get a chance to hear your external voice in a recording, that recording will most likely sound odd and off-putting. It’s not that we have a dislike for higher pitched voices— in fact, mothers will often raise the pitch of their voice when speaking to a baby.  The dissonance is just that your external voice doesn’t match the voice you hear and identify with every day. It’s close, but not right, and that makes you uncomfortable. It may be similar to seeing yourself in a photo: the face you see in a flattering snapshot probably doesn’t match the one you see in the mirror each day. Since it doesn’t match the face you identify with exactly, it seems wrong and weird, which usually leads to us not liking it.

It’d be interesting to try to share our internal voices with each other via electronic pitch shifting. Maybe calculating your personal bone, muscle and fat density would make it possible to hear a friend’s voice through their ears. But more importantly, it’d give us all a chance to hear what Barry White thinks he sounds like, if our ears can even register a sound that low.

Source: Why you probably hate the sound of your own voice by Rachel Feltman, Speaking of Science

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