What Yanny versus Laurel says about you and how you hear

Tanya Edwards
Yahoo Lifestyle

If you’ve been off the internet today, take a moment to turn up your volume and listen to this recording. What do you hear? The internet is divided on this one.

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Some people, this author included, clearly heard a male voice repeating the word Laurel in a monotone. Others heard a higher-pitched male voice saying, “Yanny … Yanny … Yanny.”

Twitter hopped in on the debate, of course.



Team Yahoo Lifestyle was split pretty much down the middle, with beauty editor Jacqueline Laurean Yates saying, “I don’t hear Yanny AT ALL.”

Beauty director Dana Oliver deployed a GIF, naturally.

Photo: Giphy
Photo: Giphy

Depending on a number of factors — the sound settings on your computer, and maybe more crucially, the state of your hearing — you might hear one or the other. One of our editors even heard both.

We asked a radio producer (who asked we not use his name) what his take was, and he tested the clip out.

“I put it on Audition [a tracking tool] and when I pull out all the highs with an EQ, the ‘Laurel’ is clear and that hiss behind it is gone. When I pull out all the low frequencies, you can hear a high-pitched, robotic-sounding voice and that’s the ‘Yanny,’” he explained.

He continued with a bit of speculation, saying, “When you look at the spectrum view of the sound, you can sort of see it. Looks like a red hourglass that you stretched out widthwise. The red chunk on the top is Yanny and the bottom is Laurel. I still haven’t completely figured it out, but it’s a neat trick. Maybe it has to do with some people perceiving high frequencies better than low ones? I know my ability to hear high frequencies has been knocked down a few pegs from listening to loud music and wearing headphones for work all day, so that could be why I hear ‘Laurel’ unless I knock out all the low frequencies.”

This makes sense; if you’re older, or have listened to a lot of loud music, your higher-frequency hearing may be damaged. We also all process external stimuli differently.

The Nerd It Up podcast was also frustrated at their inability to hear “Yanny,” so they tested much like our expert did and came to a similar conclusion.

What do you hear? Do you know why? Tell us in the comments!

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