Why your voice makes you cringe

Date:24 January 2017 Author: Jorika Moore Tags:, , ,

One of the most famous and recognisable voices must be James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader from Star Wars. And while his voice may be music to many people’s ears, we’re pretty sure he wasn’t so impressed when he heard his voice for the first time.

So we had to ask: have you ever cringed at the sound of your own voice? And why do we sound so different in recordings? Let’s find out.

When you hear a recording of your voice through a speaker, the sound travels as a series of vibrations through the air and goes into your ear and vibrates your eardrum. Your vibrating eardrum moves three small bones in your ear; the mallens, incus and the stapes. These then send the vibrations into a spiral structure filled with fluid and little hairs around the edge, named the cochlea. The cochlea then transfers the vibrations received from the small bones into nerve signals that are then sent up to the brain where the sound is interpreted.

So why, when you hear a recording of your voice does it sound completely different to what you think your voice actually sounds like?

Well, that’s just it: Because you hear your voice in two different ways. The first has already been explained above. The second way is your vocal chords vibrating when you speak actually sets of vibration in your skull – those vibrations travel through your skull and set your eardrum vibrating. But as those vibrations travel through the bone, they spread out. The notes and frequency in your voice drops and you essentially hear a lower tone. So when you hear a recording of your voice, you expect it to be lower than it is inside your head, but the reality is the opposite.

The reality for most is unfortunately that what you hear on a recording is what you actually sound like. Now imagine what Morgan Freeman sounds like in his head…


Image credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

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