Why Do You Hate the Sound of Your Own Voice?

January 12, 2014 Updated: January 12, 2014

“We hate it because it is so foreign,” said Dr. William Cullinan, dean of the College of Health Sciences at Marquette University in Wisconsin.

You hear your voice differently than others hear it, because the vibrations that produce sound from your vocal chords travel to your ears through bone vibrations and other internal conduits as well as through the air.

When you hear a recording of your own voice, it isn’t that the sound quality is poor—it sounds strange because you are hearing it as others do, as sound transmitted only through the air. It sounds higher in pitch.

As for the psychological response to hearing your voice, as Dr. Cullinan said in an interview with the university’s magazine, part of it is simply that it’s foreign. Jordan Gaines, a neuroscience grad student at Penn State College of Medicine and a science writer, explains in an NBC article: “It’s kind of the same way we like what we see in the mirror, but not what we see in photographs.

“We grow up getting used to all of our asymmetries as reflected in the mirror—parting our hair to the left, the little mole on our right cheek, that chip in our left incisor. When we see a photo of ourselves, all of these tiny differences don’t match up with what our brain expects to see, so we dislike it.”

We perfect and adjust our voices based on how they sound in our head, just as we adjust the part in our hair based on how we see ourselves reflected in a mirror.

While we may not like the sound of our own voices, we may like it better than other people do.

An Albright College study published last year showed that test subjects had a higher assessment of their own voices—they were more likely to describe their own voices as attractive or appealing—when they listened to recordings than other people had of their voices.

“People generally tend to have an enhanced sense about themselves,” said Susan Hughes, associate professor of psychology, in an interview with Science Daily. “Often people will think they have more attractive or possess better qualities than they actually do. This is sometimes used as a mechanism to build self-esteem or fight against depression.”


*Image of woman and microphone via Shutterstock