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St. Paul’s Audiologist Solves The “Yanny Or Laurel” Mystery

If you have an internet connection, you’ve no doubt come across the “Yanny or Laurel” audio clip that has been causing a rift among listeners this week.

If you’ve somehow managed to avoid this viral sensation (which many are comparing to the infamous “Blue or White Dress” debate of 2015), here’s the gist: an audio file is being shared around that features a computer-generated voice saying a word. Some listeners are convinced the voice says “Yanny” while others are just as adamant the voice says “Laurel.”

Have a quick listen and see which camp you’re in.

So, how can two people listening to the exact same audio clip perceive the sounds so differently? We asked one of our PHC hearing experts to weigh in on this internet meme.

St. Paul’s Hospital Registered Audiologist Jowan Lee actually got a call from his father this week about the polarizing audio clip.

“He has high-frequency hearing loss. When he listened to the recording without his hearing aids he said he heard ‘Laurel’ 100%. When he listened to it with his hearing aids in (gave more of his high-frequency sounds back), he said he heard ‘Yaurel’. Not exactly Yanny, but closer.”

So what’s the deal?

“Yanny is comprised of stronger high-frequency information than Laurel. So, if one still has intact high-frequency hearing, you are more likely to be able to hear Yanny. If one has lost their high frequencies, then you are more likely to hear Laurel,” Jowan explained. “Having said that, there is likely a number of individual internal biases/expectations that likely affect how our brains interpret what we hear. Also, my understanding is the original clip is a not actually a recording of either word, but rather an ambiguous version of some morphed word which further leads to the confusion.”

So there you have it. Whether you hear Yanny or Laurel depends on your ability to hear high-frequency sounds. In response to this week’s heated debate, The New York Times built a tool to accentuate different frequencies in the original audio clip allowing listeners to hear both words. Check it out here.

nyt tool

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