Why you hear what you hear

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) Do you hear yanny or laurel? The video floating across the nation last week has sparked several theories about why we hear what we hear.

Credit: CNN

Dr. Mark Hedrick, a local audiologist and professor at the University of Tennessee, said one theory could be based on past experiences.

He said it's likely everyone hears the same frequency, but it's the way our brains interpret it that's different based off personal experiences.

"We have different representations in our brain of what's a good /r/ sound what's a good 'ye' sound, what's a good /e/ sound. This also comes into play as you're listening to speech," he said.

"Say my speech, your speech, say a child's speech, all of us are going to produce slightly different frequnecy values for our speech sounds, but our brains are going to be able to take all that into account and say 'oh yeah.' That's what's called the speaker normalization problem," said Hedrick

He said if you experience high frequency hearing loss that could play a part as well.

"If you have a high frequency hearing loss you may not as easily hear the word 'yanny' and then you might hear something for low frequency like 'laurel.'" he said.

But all the attention around this viral video could also mean new developments in helping people with hearing loss.

"It's interesting to talk about it in terms of devices or cochlear implants and helping people that say have hearing loss as to how can you make the best device to enable them better to understand speech?"

Headrick said the video brings different theories to the forefront and has people really thinking about what your brain is capeable of.