Why does hearing yourself speak with a few seconds of delay, completely crash your brain?


Why does hearing yourself speak with a few seconds of delay, completely crash your brain?

In: Biology

We subconsciously use our own voices to make sure our mouth is making the noises we want it to. The brain can’t figure out what’s wrong but still tries to correct itself

I had this with WebEx for a bit when we first adopted it at work, it made it so difficult to speak I ended up taking my headset off while speaking until I got it sorted. My poor brain just couldn’t cope.



Not an answer, but another thing to crash your brain: apparently hearing yourself speak with a few seconds of delay can fix stuttering.

Professional TV audio engineer here, for guests that appear on TV shows “remotely” a special mix has to be sent to their earpiece called a “mix-minus.” This is a mix of the show audio MINUS the guest’s own voice. This is done specifically to avoid the echo effect in their ear that happens due to phone / satellite / net delay getting the signal to their ear. A separate mix-minus needs to be created for each remote guest so that they can all hear each other but not themselves. If you ever see a guest on a show rip their earpiece out in the middle of their hit, it is most likely because the audio engineer sent them the wrong mix-minus and they are hearing themselves on a delay.

In a show with many remote guests, its easy to cross up which line is going to which guest. It is also usually a VERY simple fix for the engineer and SHOULD be caught before the guest goes on-air. If the producers are competent, they try to get their guests set up in the commercial break and do a comms check to make sure everybody can talk and hear each other correctly. Sometimes guests sit down seconds to their air time and you’ve just gotta wing it.

The anchors in the studio typically hear the entire mix because the proximity to the audio gear allows for near zero delay/latency for them.

EDIT: just realized this doesn’t really answer the question posed originally about WHY hearing the echo messes with your ability to talk and think. This was more an interesting side note to it. Hope thats ok!

I’ve done a fair bit of public speaking, and the fucked up thing is that no one warns you about that kind of thing.
The first time I went up on stage I had a solid 15 seconds of looking like a moron because I’d start speaking and shut down. I was able to power through it, but it wasn’t as graceful as it otherwise might have been, most people just thought it was stage fright, which is embarrassing in it’s own stupid way.

I’m hard of hearing. Currently my aids are not strong enough to hear my own voice. When I upgrade to stronger aids, as in the past, I will have to relearn how to modulate my voice. At first I will think I’m speaking super loud , but I’ll actually be speaking just above a whisper. Just thought I’d share an insight into my world! Lol

Can someone explain the question? In what scenario would you hear yourself with a delay? How is that even possible

This is also the reason referees tend to talk in short snippets with pauses, they’re waiting until after they finish hearing each bit through the speakers before they continue talking.

For those wishing to see this phenomenon in action: the below video is English rugby player James Haskell malfunctioning on live TV when his headphones have a delay.


I’ve always wanted to weaponize this. Know that annoying guy on the corner talking about jeebus and how everyone is going to hell or whatever? Blast that back at him with a half second delay.

Some interesting answers here but I think the answer is very simply this: you’re not expecting it.


99% of your life when you speak you don’t hear your words repeated back to you. When you do it’s always a fantastically strange surprise, so it’s all your brain can focus on. Not to mention, it’s like having someone interrupt you and talk over you for the entire time you’re talking. Again, 99% of your life, you’re not talking over people, not only because it’s rude but it sounds horrendous.


But, once you’re expecting it, it’s really not all that difficult to tune it out, you just have to try. Concentration is a powerful thing, you can remove concentration from your hearing and point it at the words you’re saying, and tune it out, simply as that. It’ll take some practice if you’re not used to it, but I promise it’s a skill you can learn. Next time it happens to you, treat it like an opportunity to practice that skill, to focus on what you want to say without needing to listen to what’s being repeated back to you.

This is called the stenger phenomenon, and it’s used in audiology if you suspect malingering – someone claiming to have worse hearing than they do. You have them read a passage, and play back their voice with a delay at a volume they shouldn’t be able to hear it at if they’re being honest with their other tests, and watch for them to stumble.