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'Yanny' or 'Laurel' sound clip debate splits the Internet

UPI News Service, 05/16/2018 

The Internet has erupted into a debate about whether a short audio clip features the word "Laurel" or "Yanny," and experts said they might both be correct.

The clip, which went viral on social media after surfacing this week on Reddit, features four seconds of someone saying a word that some listeners identify as "Yanny" while others declare they can hear nothing but "Laurel."

The debate, which evoked memories of 2015's infamous "#TheDress" argument, led experts to chime in with possible explanations for why people are hearing such different words.

Audio engineers, including Travis Newton on Twitter, used software to analyze the audio file and determined that "Yanny" and "Laurel" are both present, but at different frequencies. "Laurel" is at the low-end, while "Yanny" is at the high end.

"If I cut your ears off and put someone else's on your head, sounds would sound different," University of Chicago psychologist Howard Nusbaum, who studies speech science told Gizmodo.

Nushbaum, who initially heard "Laurel" on the recording, said both the shape of the outer ear and the inner ear canal affect how a person hears different pitches.

"The signal information is present for both words in the acoustics, but some people are listening to some frequencies and others are listening to other frequencies," he said.

Lars Riecke, an assistant professor of audition and cognitive neuroscience at Maastricht University, likened the auditory controversy to Rubin's vase, a famous image that depicts either a vase or two faces, depending on how one looks at it.

"The input can be organized in two alternative ways," he told The Verge.

He said a listener's audio equipment could affect which word they hear first, as well as age -- he said older adults tend to start losing their hearing at higher frequencies, which contributed to why he heard "Laurel" and his 8-year-old daughter heard "Yanny."

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