13 Bizarre Things You Never Knew About Your Own Voice
Your larynx is much more than just a noise-making organ. Check out these fun facts about the voice box and what your tone gives away about you.
Airplane chatter can cause damage
If you talk or sing for a living—or you just want to avoid losing your voice—you may want to avoid chatting on flights as much as possible. Gregory Postma, MD, ENT physician and director and vice chairman of the Augusta University Center for Voice Swallowing Disorders, says air on planes has about 8 to 12% humidity, which is about as dry as the Arizona desert. Air with very little moisture is tough on the vocal cords, so keeping talking to a minimum could help protect your voice.
You could be a voice professional
Would your job be significantly harder or impossible to do if you lost your voice? Then you might be considered a professional voice user. According to a study by Robert T. Sataloff, MD, professor and chair of otolaryngology at Drexel University, a professional voice user is someone whose ability to earn a living is impacted negatively by the loss of vocal quality and endurance. Most people think this label is only for singers, actors, and broadcast personalities, but it also extends to teachers, receptionists, telemarketers, salespeople, and other professions.
Trying to protect your larynx? Don’t whisper!
You may be tempted to whisper to conserve your voice if you have laryngitis or a sore throat, but that could actually damage your pipes even more. “We advise people not to whisper as whispering is, in fact, harder on your voice than speaking in a normal tone,” said Dr. Postma. It’s better to use your voice gently and quietly versus forcing your vocal cords to squeeze together tightly through whispering.
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Babies know mom’s voice before they’re born
Singing to your bun in the oven may not be falling on deaf ears. At 25 weeks of development, your baby can already recognize and respond to your voice, says Forrest Talley, PhD, a clinical psychologist who worked in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of California, Davis, Medial Center for over 20 years. Once they’re born, babies also show a clear preference and recognition for their mother’s voice over other female voices that they hear.
There’s a scientific reason you hate your own voice
When you talk, energy bounces around in your mouth, throat, and through your head, directly to the inner portion of your ear, Aaron Johnson, PhD, a speech and language pathologist and assistant professor in the otolaryngology department at NYU Langone’s Voice Center, told The Healthy @Reader’s Digest. Other people can’t sense the vibrations in your mouth, so you hear your own voice differently than they do. When you hear your voice in a recording, you sound brighter or higher than what you’re used to, which you may find irritating.
Your voice gives away a lot of information about you
“You had me at hello” might not seem like a crazy phrase considering evidence shows that the sound of a person’s voice can give away important information about them. According to multiple studies, listeners hearing voice samples can guess personality traits, socioeconomic status, and even attributes like height, age, and weight of the speaker. In fact, someone hearing your voice can potentially guess your physical features as accurately as someone examining a photo of you.
You’re not shouting at parties on purpose
Have you ever talked to someone with your headphones on and realized you were shouting at them on accident? Well, it’s not entirely your fault. Jason Galster, PhD, Starkey Hearing Technologies Senior Manager of Audiology Research, says everyone naturally raises their voice in loud environments. This is called the Lombard effect—a speaker’s involuntary increase or change in voice, pitch, rate, and duration of syllables when in loud environments.
Your pitch can reveal your attraction
You’ve probably heard that men lower their voices when they’re flirting with a woman, but did you know that women instinctively do the same? A study found that “both sexes used a lower-pitched voice and showed a higher level of physiological arousal when speaking to the more attractive, opposite-sex target.” The next time you’re talking to someone you find good-looking, listen carefully to see if their pitch lowers, even slightly—it might signal that they’re into you!
People can judge you based on the first word out of your mouth
You don’t have to say much for people to judge you, but what about just saying one single word? It turns out, people may gauge your trustworthiness and dominance from a simple greeting. About 500 listeners who were part of a University of Glasgow study judged the trustworthiness of voices only saying “hello.” Researchers found that voices that “have personality” or variations are perceived as more trustworthy than those that remained mostly flat.
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We love deep voices
What do Morgan Freeman, Sam Elliott, Beyoncé, and Oprah have in common? Besides having a lot of money, these stars also have deep and authoritative voices. A study between the University of Miami and Duke University found that individuals with lower-pitched voices are perceived as having more integrity, competence, and physical power.
Everyone prefers the real thing
Despite studies confirming that robots could replace you at work, you have one thing the machines don’t—a real voice. The 2018 Voice Over Trends Report found that 93% of 1,000 survey respondents prefer human-generated sound and speech compared to robotic ones. So far, tech experts have yet to produce authentic human voices, making your natural pipes the more powerful pick.
The man with the deepest voice can’t hear it
Men often speak at a frequency of 65 to 260 Hertz. The lower the Hz, the deeper the voice. American singer Tim Storms holds the Guinness World Record for the lowest vocal note produced by a man and the world’s deepest voice, hitting a mere 0.189 Hz.
Your vocal cords help keep you alive
You probably think that your vocal folds, often called vocal cords, exist simply so you can communicate. Their primary function, however, is to protect the airway and make sure nothing goes down the trachea that doesn’t belong. According to the Ear, Nose, and Throat department of the Eastern Virginia Medical School, the folds protect you from choking, regulate your air flow into your lungs, and produce sounds used for speech.