Well, 3 years after the great “Blue & Black Dress VS Gold & White Dress” visual debate we now have the audio version of that: Laurel VS Yanny

There’s a clip from vocabulary.com that sparked a debate on whether the word “Laurel” actually sounds like “laurel” or “yanny”.

Now, I myself, as a normal hearing individual (from frequencies 250 Hz – 8kHz anyway) clearly hear “Laurel” when I play the clip from my desktop, but when I caught wind of this so called debate I called my friend and played the clip for her over the speakerphone of my office phone and she clearly heard “Yanny”. I then sent her the link so that she can play it for herself from her desktop and then she heard “Laurel” while I heard “Yanny” when listening to it over the phone line… MIND BLOWN.

Of course being an audiologist I can definitely appreciate this more than some others would, and that got me thinking– was it because I was playing it on my desktop? What if I had headphones on? Why did it sound like a different word when I heard it while someone else was playing it over the speaker phone of a landline phone? Oh the questions I had!

Although I am not a sound engineer per se, we as audiologists know a thing or two about frequencies, bandwidth, and so forth and so on. We counsel our patients that have high frequency hearing loss to know that they are not alone as we all have some trouble in high-frequency unfriendly environments such as over the phone (which is why we usually say “F as in Frank”, or “S as in Sam” etc when spelling something over the phone) or in noisy restaurants or loud gatherings.

The New York Times¬†offers a nice representation of the original sound clip. You can then move their interactive bar to the left to hear more low frequency / low pitch sounds of the word and therefore “Laurel” will be more noticeable. Then you can slide the bar over to the right to hear more high frequency / high pitch sounds of the word and therefore “Yanny” will be more noticeable. The below video from The Independent offers a visual breakdown of the phenomenon:

So in conclusion, although the word technically IS Laurel, depending on your device and the bandwidth that it’s limited to that you are using to listen to the sound clip, your hearing ability, your brains ability to pick up certain sounds over others, and a little pixy dust, you can be safe to say that if you hear Laurel OR Yanny, you are right.

Until next time,

-Dr. Elly