Published: Thu, May 17, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

'Laurel' or 'yanny'? This audio illusion has the Internet divided

'Laurel' or 'yanny'? This audio illusion has the Internet divided

It's the biggest social media debate since "the dress": is a robot voice saying "Laurel" or "Yanny"?

We asked Shelley Borgia, Au.D., a New York City audiologist and WebMD contributing editor, to set things straight, and let us know which of us, if any, need a hearing test.

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The answer, acoustic professionals suggest, isn't that you are hearing things, but that you are listening to things. But the friend heard yanny, according to TMZ.com.

"I can't hear laurel to save my life", the audiologist said. "Laurel" is at the low-end, while "Yanny" is at the high end. However, she still heard "laurel" when she changed the pitch. "However, your brain can't handle both at once, so it picks one and that is the version you hear". Other people are certain it's "yanny". People in the room disagreed about what they were hearing. "The perception of 'Laurel" is experienced when the lower frequency information is dominant in the experience". There is more power behind it. Once your brain has processed a sound as having a certain meaning, it is hard to hear it another way.

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As we age, our ears hear fewer sounds in the high-pitched range.

Juuular also posited that older people, who are more likely to have sustained hearing damage, will probably hear "laurel" because our ability to hear higher frequencies diminishes as we age. It gives you more bass. If there were no suggestions of what either sound is, it'd be much harder to be convinced of what you are actually hearing. Even though the original recording is of the word laurel, someone who hears high frequencies especially well may be picking up on higher-pitched components of that word that sound nothing like it - nearly as if one were to turn the treble way up on a stereo or mp3 player, she said. When I presented it to a patient with hearing loss, he didn't hear either.

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But the main explanation comes down to frequency and the device you are using to play the audio.

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