We take coworking etiquette seriously here at Suite Spotte. There’s an easy fix for one of the more annoying problems caused by headphone use — the headphone headache.

The Situation

Have you ever finished a Zoom call while wearing your noise cancelling headphones and have someone nearby ask why you were talking so loud on the call? You thought you were speaking normal, but everyone around you was distracted by the high volume of your voice.

Why Does This Happen?

You speak louder when you’re wearing noise cancelling headphones or earbuds because your own voice sounds super quiet to you.  Without going too deep into the science, here’s why.

We control the volume of our voice in two ways.

  1. The sound of your voice in your head is made by the vibration along your jawbone.
  2. Then there’s the sound outside your head picked up by your ears. That’s what you (and those around you) hear.

Your brain combines these two sounds and tells you to either speak louder or softer. This happens all the time and we don’t even realize it.

However, noise cancelling technology reduces not only the ambient noise around you, but also the sound of your outside voice. Because your inside voice is quieter than your outside voice, and your brain does not register your outside voice, it automatically tells you to speak louder so that you can be heard. The result – a much louder volume that sounds right to you, but is unusually loud to everyone around you. 

What To Do?

It’s an easy fix, but requires discipline. When wearing headphones or earbuds,

  1. Speak naturally regardless of whether you can hear your outside voice.
  2. Consciously speak in a normal tone no matter what your brain tells you.
  3. Check in with the person you are speaking with to ensure they can hear you (they can).
  4. If people around you are giving you the evil eye, take my word for it, you are talking too loud.

Following these four suggestions may take some getting used to. But everyone around you will be most grateful for your coworking etiquette, and you’ll no longer be “that guy”. 

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