How Men Hear A Woman’s Voice

bl and wh music staffAccording to researchers, there is a (big) difference between how a man hears a male voice and how he hears a female voice.  A man hears another male’s voice as speech.

But, to a man’s brain,  a woman’s voice is different!

Her voice may not be music to his ears, but his brain thinks so!

The part of the male brain that processes a woman’s voice is the same part that processes music.

Seriously.  This could explain a few things!

From Discover Magazine, November of 2005:  “Psychiatrist Michael Hunter and fellow researchers at the University of Sheffield in England monitored the brain activity of 12 men as they listened to voice recordings and found they process male voices differently from those of females. Women’s voices stimulate an area of the brain used for processing complex sounds, like music. Male voices activate the “mind’s eye,” a region of the brain used for conjuring imagery.”

They went on to say that women generally have shorter vocal folds, and more variation in pitch and volume, or melody, as we speak.  We have a more poetic quality to our speech.  We sound more like music to a man’s ears.

Here’s the deal, though.  In my experience working with couples, If you are (good) music to his ears, he decodes.  He pays attention.  He wants to hear you and understand what you’re communicating.

If you sound like bad music or noise, he simply turns you off.  He changes stations.

It’s not wrong.  It’s natural. 

heart noteIt’s a quick, no-brainer decision.  Just change stations and listen to something more pleasing.

The short story is this.  If you want to be heard, the actual sound of complaining, correcting, or criticizing won’t make him listen.  It’s bad music, and he’ll be compelled to turn you off.  Get to a better place with yourself and then talk.  Your message will be more hear-able.

Some conclude that from Hunter’s research that men find the female voice more difficult to hear and understand. But Hunter thinks the opposite is true. Because the brain is apparently deciphering the modulation in women’s voices, Hunter thinks a female voice might be able to communicate more information per sentence than a male voice.  He says that most people at a railway station say female announcers are clearer, and maybe it has to do with the added information in the female sound.

How you sound matters!

In a session with a couple recently, the woman was communicating to her husband in what I would call a whining and complaining voice.  Her message was valid, it just sounded awful, even to me.  So I asked her to gather herself, and try the very same message again, this time from a more centered, non-victim place.

headphonesShe understood me perfectly.  She took a deep breath and repeated the communication using a clear and more neutral vocal tone.

Which, by the way, made made all the difference for her and for him.

She felt better about herself and what she needed.  She was coming from a stronger place.

He could hear her.  He listened intently.  They talked and they understood each other.  They figured things out!  Hooray team!

So dear women, if you’d like to be heard (and of course we do!) in the interest of efficiency, self-esteem, and most of all love, remember — you’re music!


how men hear a woman's voice, In Care of Relationships, music hearing, relationship, relationships, sound, Terri Crosby, voice, women's voices

Comments (4)

  • I love it! I’ve recently been exposed to two women who broadcast what feels to me
    like “no music” stations. It’s The News (in glorious detail) from Sally’s Viewpoint and none of it is relative to the moment, least of all to me. I just want them to take a breath once in a while! And maybe notice I’m there. Actually, I’d rather hear music. Suggestions?

    • I know of someone who just walks out of conversations like that. She says “it’s been really nice talking to you” and she walks away. In one sense it sounds rude, but on the other hand we are under no obligation to listen to chatter that doesn’t matter. There’s no requirement to listen just because someone is talking. And then it’s just a matter of bravery and not worrying about pleasing someone else. I’m in favor of bravery.

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