I Still Hate How My Voice Sounds in Recordings
The difference between our expectations and reality
I was listening to my voice during a recording of me teaching and cringed. It happens any time I hear a recording of myself — somewhere in my head, I think, wow, that’s what I sound like?
I’m not sure if the reason is just a difference in expectation and reality. Our voices sound different to ourselves in our heads than they actually do to others, and a large part of that reason is that we receive sound transferred to our ears through air conduction and sound transferred internally through our bones. The bone conduction sound gives lower frequencies of sound we don’t normally hear it. And because our voices in our heads sound so different from what we expect, we tend not to like it.
According to Phillip Jaekl at The Guardian, there’s a name for the phenomenon: voice confrontation. One psychologist Jaekl interviews, Dr. Silke Paulmann at the University of Essex, speculates that the reason people hate their real voices so much is that:
“We sound more high-pitched than what we think we should leads us to cringe as it doesn’t meet our internal expectations; our voice plays a massive role in forming our identity and I guess no one likes to realise that you’re not really who you think you are.”
I certainly sound more nasally than I expect, as well as a bit more high pitched. I use too many filler words, like “like” or “um,” and I talk too fast — no wonder my students sometimes don’t understand my instructions.
However, Jaekl cites some conflicting data that a 2013 study from Hughes and Harrison in Perception found that when people had to rate the attractiveness of voices, they rated their own voice the highest. Of course, participants did not know it was their own voice, but Hughes and Harrison conclude that:
“These findings suggest that people may engage in vocal implicit egotism, a form of self-enhancement.”
However, the sound of my own voice tends to be just a reminder that I’m not who I think I am on an existential level. How we perceive ourselves is different from how others perceive us, but it’s not just perception — it’s reality. Psychologists Phil Holzman and Clyde Rousey did a…