The scientific reason why you hear “Yanny” or “Laurel”


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Photo: Stocksy/Lauren Naefe

Lately, the internet has been totally divided. And no—this time it’s not because of the color of a dress. Three years ago, people learned their eyes could play tricks on them. This time around, it’s your ears that are causing the chaos—all because one simple audio clip has some people hearing “Yanny” and others hearing “Laurel.”

So, first of all, how the heck did this debate even start? Funnily enough, in the classroom. According to Wired, a freshman in high school was studying for a word literature class, and “laurel” was on her list. After playing the audio on Vocabulary.com, she heard “yanny,” causing a mini debate amongst her other friends in class. After that, it wasn’t long before popular YouTuber Cloe Feldman shared the debate on Instagram and Twitter: the original tweet now has nearly 90,000 retweets and 209,000 likes.

People are pretty heated about which side they’re on—and it’s nearly an even split in the polls with Feldman’s own Instagram Story tally at 53 percent for Yanny and 47 percent for Laurel. To save everyone’s sanity, the YouTube channel AsapSCIENCE breaks down the reason people are hearing different things, and there are a few different factors that play in.

“The sounds in Yanny play out at a higher frequency than the sounds in Laurel. As we age, our ears are less able to hear higher frequencies, so if you’re hearing Yanny, you might have younger ears.”

According to the video, though the two words don’t seem similar, they’re not actually too far off from each other when you map out the sound waves. Because of that, listening through different devices—whether it’s your phone, computer, iPad, or headphones—can make you hear different things as your brain subconsciously chooses which frequencies to pay attention to. But one of the biggest explanations of the split between the two is the age of your ears.

“The sounds in Yanny play out at a higher frequency than the sounds in Laurel,” explains the video. “As we age, our ears are less able to hear higher frequencies, so if you’re hearing Yanny, you might have younger ears.”

In the end, yes, there might be a right answer to the debate—#LaurelFTW! But what’s actually heard during the recording is going to vary from person to person, so don’t torment your friends too much if you find a divide. Now, get ready: The internet has been broken twice—which of the senses will get confused next?

Need a break from internet craziness? Head outside for this walking meditation. Or, check out these 5 yummy things to watch on Netflix to up your food knowledge.

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