Most of us wince and grimace at hearing the sound of our own voice played back in a video or audio clip, but why is this? What makes the voice in our head so different from the one everyone else is listening to? Well, the scientific explanation behind the phenomenon is all to do with the vibrations inside our bodies that no one else hears.
According to Rachel Feltman at The Washington Post, when we hear other people speak, our ear drums and inner ears vibrate from the sound waves coming in from outside; vibrations that the brain converts into sound. The same is true when we hear ourselves speaking, but added to these external sound waves are other internal vibrations from deep within our bodies - vibrations from our vocal cords and airways that get added to the mix.
To put it in more technical terms, you're adding bone conduction to air conduction when you speak with your own voice. "Bone-conducted sound is when you activate your vocal cords and vibrations are set off through your skull, eventually reaching your inner ear," explains Feltman. "The acoustics in your skull lower the frequency of those vibrations along the way, essentially adding some bass tones."
As a result, the voice we hear inside our heads is lower, richer and more mellifluous because of these extra rumblings, and hearing it come from outside ourselves (on a YouTube video for example) makes it sound tinny and alien. It's no wonder we don't like it without the deeper and richer undertones added by our internal hearing system.
Looking at our own bodies can be jarring too, because we're often looking at mirror images of ourselves. If we suddenly see a photo or video of what we really look like, it appears strange - because it's the right way round again. We're naturally inclined to like the mirrored version of ourselves we've become most familiar with, and when that's flipped over it's quite unnerving (unless you happen to have a perfectly symmetrical face).
The good news is that your voice isn't grating for your friends and acquaintances at all: it's the one they've grown accustomed to and they've never heard the one inside your head, so don't be afraid to speak up. And the next time you're tempted to ask "do I really sound like that?", don't bother: the answer is yes. At least you're in good company if you're not a fan of your own voice.