Dr. Kevin Franck, the audiology director at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, told TIME that the audio clip in this instance forces the brain to decide quickly about what word it hears. But for a moment, discovering there was no observable rhyme or reason to why you heard something that a sizeable chunk of the internet didn't was unsettling.
McCreery, an auditory scientist, explained the phenomenon.
One thing that everyone can agree on is that this is the most hotly-contested meme since "The Dress", where people were split on whether it was a gold or blue hue.
So, did you hear Laurel or Yanny? That's letting them hear "Laurel" loud and clear.
"The energy of the sound comes from the vowels which are low frequency and they're really strong".
"You have categories of sounds in your head", he said. The "ya" and "la" sounds that start the two words are similar and so are the ending sounds, he said.
The US Department of Defense made light of the controversy on its Twitter account, with a photo of a US Marine Corps instructor berating a recruit: "I said it's #Yanny, recruit, not #Laurel!" Amid the background noise, you're able to focus on what your dining partner is saying.
From the people KLTV polled today in Smith County, 30% said they heard "Yanny" and 70% heard "Laurel". The human brain can't process both at once, though, so it picks one to process, depending on your hearing range. It is Laurel and not Yanny alright.
"When you have signals that are weak, that are near threshold, then even minor changes like equalization or quality of the headphones could make a difference", linguist Terry Nearey said.
But Cavanaugh still says no matter what you hear, you're not wrong or right if you hear one over the other.