by Jon Nicholls

Why your voice sounds different on a recording - Timothy E. Hullar in Scientific American describes the reason. The sound of your voice reaches the inner ear by two paths:

  1. Sound conducted by air enters the auditory canal of the ear and impacts the eardrum, which transmits the sound down the middle ear and finally into the fluid filled spiral of the inner ear called the cochlea.
  2. Sound conducted by bone travels through the medium of bone and body tissue directly to the cochlea in the inner ear.

But there's a catch...


Bone conducted sound is generally perceived to have a lower, deeper tone than sound conducted down the auditory canal.

So when you speak, what you hear as your voice is a blending of signals: one signal comes from your auditory canal, and the other signal comes from bone conduction. Since the sound of your voice originates from your head, the dominant signal is from bone conduction, which gives the sound of your own voice a deeper tone or bias. However, when you hear your own voice via a recording, the bone conduction signal is no longer dominant, and your voice will sound higher pitched than you are used to.

The bias is easy to experience. Just plug your ears and listen to yourself talk. Compare that voice to the the voice you hear with your ears unplugged. That same phenomenon is occurring when you compare the familiar sound of your own voice with the sound of your voice in a recording.

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by Daniel J. Levitin

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