Yanny vs. Laurel: Exploring the Science of Sound

It’s the hottest non-political debate going these days.

Laurel and Yanny are not fictional characters on a new sitcom or the latest candidates running for Chicago mayor. They are part of an auditory illusion featured on a clip that has everyone talking about how we process sound.

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Some people insist they hear “Yanny” and some say it’s clearly “Laurel.” Others say they hear both words.

Poll: “Laurel” or “Yanny.” What do you hear?

What we hear has to do mainly with the frequencies the ear picks up, says Howard Nusbaum, a psychology professor who specializes in speech science at the University of Chicago.

“Your ear essentially breaks the sound down into different frequencies so every complex sound has low frequencies and high frequencies and when they’re added up together it makes a complex sounds,” said Nusbaum.

As people age, they lose the ability to hear high frequencies and are more likely to hear “Laurel” because the word operates at a lower frequency, he said.

Nasbaum joins us in discussion to explain the mystery behind this audio phenomenon.  

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