Even the most confident of crooners may cringe upon hearing a recording of their own voice: “Is that what I actually sound like?” Unfortunately, the answer is yes, according to Lifehacker. This raises the question: Why do we hear one thing while the rest of the world hears another?
Vocal coach Chris Beatty—a singer/songwriter who’s also the nephew of famed classical composer Samuel Barber—provides an answer in the video below: “We get a preview of sound that comes up the side of the face, right into the ears,” Beatty explains. “In addition to that, we get some inner vibration in the ear and the head, and we judge that as being our sound, but it really isn’t.”
Curious to know what your own voice sounds like? If you don’t own a vocal recorder, Beatty recommends taking file folders (a couple of magazines or pieces of paper will do in a pinch) and placing them in front of your ears so they’re sticking out from the sides of your head. This makes the sound of your voice go out in front of you, instead of to the side, so it’s affected by variables like temperature, humidity, the thickness of the carpet, and the number of people in the room.
Count from one to five. Hear that? This is what others hear when you talk or sing—and after you get over the initial embarrassment, you might even start liking it.
A version of this story originally ran in 2017; it has been updated for 2023.