17 May 2018

'Laurel' or 'Yanny'? People can't decide but we may have the answer

11:28 am on 17 May 2018

Do you hear "Laurel" or "Yanny"? An expert says your answer could depend on your level of hearing loss.

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Photo: 123RF

A four-second audio clip of a computer-generated voice saying a word has divided the internet.

The debate, which has been compared to a dispute over the colour of a dress in 2015, had some insisting they heard "Laurel".

Some people went as far as adjusting audio levels to try to get to the bottom of it, with some pointing out it could have to do with whether you can hear high frequencies.

RNZ Auckland staffers unanimously heard 'yanny' in the clip, however further investigations showed it was possible to hear both words depending on the type of headphones worn.

RNZ's press gallery staff unanimously heard 'laurel'.

A poll of RNZ's Wellington newsroom had a combined 'yanny/yammy' count of 12, with Laurel-ers racking up nine votes.

Two RNZ Hamilton staff heard 'year-wee' and one heard 'laurel'.

One staffer, switching his vote at the last minute, said "the world is insane, chaos reigns, the falcon does not return to the falconer".

Audiologist Dr Bill Vass told ABC Canberra it could be like a high-pitched mosquito ringtone school students use, which can usually only be heard by people under 25 years old - making it inaudible to many teachers.

"Part of this has got to do with some hearing loss associated with as you get older, that's going to certainly affect the high frequency more than the low frequency," Dr Vass said.

But he said it was also more difficult to determine the word in this particular recording because it is "not real speech".

"We're not listening to an actual speaker - we're listening to manipulated speech, and that is a bit harder," he said.

But failing those theories, he said it "could just be a big internet hoax".

- ABC and RNZ