I think I just discovered my autistic superpower…
I can hear both Yanny and Laurel AT THE SAME TIME without even trying.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read about the Yanny vs. Laurel debate here. (I won’t judge you for living under a rock because, if I had a choice, I would live under one myself.)
Or, if you can’t be bothered to read, watch this short video:
Also, if you don’t already know, I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome five years ago, which means I’m autistic and therefore not trying to be rude to autistic people.
I felt moved to write this post because, as I was freaking out trying to find articles explaining why I can hear both words at the same time, and not having any luck — most articles just talk about some people being able to selectively hear one or the other but there’s no mention of both at once — I realised that this phenomenon could explain/illustrate the sensory overload that autistic people experience.
I mean, growing up over the decades not knowing I was autistic and not knowing that sensory overload was even a thing, I put up with it as calmly as I could because I saw that people didn’t generally freak out in public, which meant they were coping, so why can’t I? So I coped by writing emo poems about our strange world that is too bright and too loud (and too smelly). I lived my life trying very hard to fit in because it was the only thing I knew to do.
But now I know that this stress that lives in me almost 24/7 isn’t typical. Every autistic person experiences things differently, or has the same experiences with varying degrees of intensity, so don’t think we’re all the same, but I’ll attempt to explain sensory overload.
When I’m in a group situation (party or meeting, for example) and many people are talking at once, it’s difficult for me to concentrate on one voice and tune out the rest. I hear everything. But because all the voices overlay, plus there might be music, it’s all a noisy garbled mess and I find it difficult to follow any one conversation. Trying to isolate a conversation or a specific action to focus on tires me out very quickly. I’m often completely drained and useless when I get home from an outing.
I’m extra sensitive to light and sound and smell and can feel everything at once, the same way I can hear Yanny and Laurel at the same time. So, in particularly vibrant scenarios (people, traffic, light, noise, pollution), all the sensory elements rush into me like a herd of panicked elephants stampeding through a field, tearing up all the wild vegetation. Sometimes it gives me vertigo. Sometimes I have a meltdown. Mostly, I’m just stressed and anxious inside, trying to keep it together.
This means I’m not great at social events. If I have to go anywhere, I fare better in quieter places. And, the few people, the better. Alcohol helps me dull the senses and then things get a bit more manageable but I don’t generally enjoy the taste of alcohol so it’s not a big help.
I was joking when I talked about having a superpower. I mean, heightened senses could be seen as a kind of superpower, like in Daredevil, and I relate to his need to sleep in a coffin of water, but my “ability” is not that advanced so what I have is more a hindrance than anything else. Besides, I can’t do fancy martial arts, which I totally regret.
But the point I want to make is, if you read all the scientific explanations in the Yanny vs. Laurel debate, you’ll learn that most people automatically tune out whatever they don’t need to see or hear or feel. Their brains filter out all the noise, presenting them with only what they need to experience.
Also, there are people who have smaller hearing capacities so they literally can’t hear some frequencies so, by default, the world is already a quieter and calmer place for them.
I don’t know if all autistic people have the same frequency hearing as I do but I know that for most of us, if not all, our brains either don’t have sensory filters, or our filters function at varying low capacities, so we end up experiencing sensory overload.
I’d be interested to find out if anyone else who has autism can also hear Yanny and Laurel at the same time. And, take note, I’m not saying that you’re autistic if you can; you’ll need to fulfil a lot more criteria to receive an autism diagnosis.
I’m just saying that this Yanny vs Laurel debate is a great way to raise awareness for one of the invisible struggles that people with autism face. In fact, we have many invisible struggles which make us appear weird without a visible explanations, but I’ll stop here for now.
So, which camp are you in? Yanny? Laurel? Alternating both? Or Encompassing both?