Have you ever recorded yourself saying simple, everyday phrases to see how you sound to other people? And, were you surprised when you heard a high-pitched sound that seems to be a lesser reincarnation of what you thought you actually sounded like? The answer as to why this occurs may be different than anything you've ever heard.
According to Elite Daily, our brains make us think that our voices sound lower than they actually are, so when we hear them on a recorder they sound much higher than they actually are! Dr. William Cullinan, Dean of the College of Health Sciences and director of the Integrative Neuroscience Research Center at Marquette University explains the paradoxical relationship between our minds and our voices: “We hate it because it is so foreign. You’ve certainly never heard yourself that way normally — and for good reason — you can’t avoid producing both internal and external stimuli prior to hearing your own voice. The irony is you are the only person who ‘hears’ yourself in the way you think everyone else does.”
SciShow’s science expert, Hank Green, says our surprise when we hear our voices is attributed to how we learned to speak as infants. By looking at people’s mouths and trying to emulate those same sounds, this shapes how we believed ourselves to sound.
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, there are three parts to the ear. The first part is the outer ear, which we can feel and see. The second is the middle ear which is comprised of three bones, whose function is to conduct sounds to the inner ear. Finally, the inner ear contains the cochlea, which acts a transmitter of sounds into signals for the brain to respond to. Sound enters the brain through two ways: air-conducted and bone-conducted. These two ways mix together to produce an infinitely unique sound for each individuals’ ears only. Dr. Cullinan further explains: “When you ‘hear’ your own voice, however, not only do the sound/pressure waves leaving your own mouth (call this the external stimulus) reach your ear and activate this series of events, but a second thing happens: The physical act of producing speech, which involves contraction of the muscles of the larynx (and others), creates a vibration that is translated through the neck to the skull where the entire auditory transduction apparatus is.”
This custom-made sound that we define as our voices is for only our ears and is the sound we expect to come across for others when we speak. So, the next time you are shocked at what you hear on a recorder, remember that everyone has this moment of shock and they may feel just as confused as you!