Is it Yanny, or Is It Laurel? Either Way, You’re Right

By Cody Cottier | May 16, 2018 10:03 am
Yanny! Laurel! (Credit: Tiko Aramyan/Shutterstock)

Yanny! Laurel! (Credit: Tiko Aramyan/Shutterstock)

The infamous color-changing dress has been reincarnated in sound.

An audio clip that recently surfaced online asks listeners whether they hear the word “Yanny” or “Laurel,” and somehow the world can’t decide between those polar opposites. It’s dreadfully reminiscent of the blue-and-black dress (fight me) that split the internet in 2015.

Though I definitely believed the dress was not white and gold, this time around I can sympathize with both sides. At first I was ready to take on anyone with the audacity to suggest the clip said “Laurel.” But after listening closer, I found I could toggle between hearing the two words.

It was like I had an angel on one shoulder whispering “Yanny,” and a devil on the other murmuring “Laurel.” I thought I was going insane. But some Twitter theories validate my poor, deceived ears.

It seems both words are present at different frequencies. The robotic voice saying “Yanny” is high-pitched, the one saying Laurel much lower. If you play the clip on a computer at a low frequency, you can isolate the word “Laurel,” and vice versa. This means the word you hear may depend on the device playing the sound.

But the phenomenon could also be the result of the individual ears involved. For example, when we’re young, our ears are more attuned to higher tones. As we age, we lose the ability to pick up on them and the spectrum of sounds we can hear shrinks toward the lower end.

You could say no one is quite wrong, in truth, we’re all a bit misled. Thankfully, no wars need be waged over the “Yanny or Laurel” controversy of 2018. Those no-good, white-and-gold-dress-seeing rascals, on the other hand…

  • Uncle Al

    … Grzegorz Brzęczyszczykiewicz

  • Mike Richardson

    Yanni if your hearing is intact- Laurel if you have high frequency hearing
    loss. So if you are hearing Laurel, you might want to have an audiometric evaluation.

    • Stevie McSteve

      Actually, the correct audio was officially confirmed to be “laurel”, meaning that they are hearing it as it was originally intended to sound. Regardless, a number of factors play into what an individual hears, not merely pitch frequency. Plenty of younger individuals with fine hearing will still hear laurel based on experiences, accents, expectations, and other variables.

      It is true that older individuals are more likely to hear laurel, as someone with high-frequency hearing loss is less likely to retain the ability to hear higher pitches, but it is objectively false to suggest that the only legitimate reason for this difference is hearing loss. It does not make one inherently right or wrong to hear yanny or laurel, as it is entirely based upon one’s perception.

      High frequency hearing loss usually begins around the late teens to early adulthood, so a shift in demographics is usually going to exist somewhere in there. Also, there is no need for an audiometric evaluation, as this loss in pitch frequency is perfectly normal as one enters into adulthood and ages further. Tests such as those are generally only necessary in the instance where an individual experiences abnormal hearing loss over a certain span of time, or if they have a fair possibility of suffering from severe hearing loss in general.

      Altogether, someone hearing “yanny” or “laurel” is perfectly fine and does not suggest that one is hearing deficient. One’s ears will naturally age to a point where they hear at pitches with less deviation.

  • Bill Avellino

    laurel but i do have higher frequency hearing loss although not severe


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar