The four-second clip is simply a robotic voice repeating one name several times.
He said the difference might be explained partly by a phenomenon called "upward spread of masking", in which lower-frequency sounds can hide weak higher-frequency ones.
Douglas Beck, an audiologist at Oticon, told National Geographic that there is a difference between hearing and listening. Ellen DeGeneres tweeted that everything at her show stopped to see what people heard. "Hearing is simply perceiving sound. That's, you don't hear Laurel", says Tyler Oakley.
The scientific explanation centers more on the quality of the recording and the resonance of speech sounds. A minority are not so sure but tend to put aside the ambiguities they hear and commit to either Yanny or Laurel. Furthermore, as a researcher interviewed by the New York Times pointed out, the brain can automatically tune out higher or lower frequencies if it knows what it's looking for.
Frequency and pitch could also play a role in how the recording is interpreted, others suggest.
And for what it's worth, head over here to try and hear it both ways. "When you look at the background (a student was researching the word "laurel" and heard "yanny" when she clicked an audio pronunciation) you realize there is a tremendous amount of expectation bias".