‘That’s not me!’ – Hearing one’s own voice

By Cycy

The dread of the phone call’s sudden echo, or listening to oneself while playing a recording.

There are not a lot of people who actually enjoy listening to themselves. More precisely, they don’t like what their hear. It’s too high-pitched, it’s too empty, too nasal. Then followed by a rejection of what it means to have such a voice: “its annoying”, “it sounds so self-effacing”, “I sound stressed, it’s not me”.

Understanding how self-produced speech is perceived has consequences beyond explaining this annoying phenomenon, it also provides better ground to understand speech impediments such as articulation disorders, and could prove useful for treating them. Let’s dive into how voice perception works and why hearing our own voice elicits such a strong, disturbing feeling.


Early studies in 1966 (Holzman, Rousey and Snyder, 1966) have reported that subjects in controlled environement indeed felt like listening to their own voice was a disruptive experience triggering defensive behaviors. People listening to their own voice did physiologically react to the sound of their own voice with the greater intensity than to other voices.

One of the most popular hypothesis to explain this phenomenon suggests that two routes are carrying vocal signals when it comes from one own’s body, compared to when it’s heard from an external standpoint. when a voice from a recording, or someone else is heard, the signal travels through air to reach the ear canal. However, when it comes from within, part of the signal is also conveyed via bone conduction, resoning through the skill to the ear. Different transfer functions are involved.