The New York Times is running a story about a ring tone that can be heard by kids, but not by adults. As per the story, most adults suffer from presbycusis, aging of the ear. And as a result, the older you get the less likely you are to hear sounds at higher frequencies. Which means that kids can now use a ring tone that their folks won’t hear (I don’t know if that’s a really good thing, or really scary). There is a link on the page to an MP3 of the ring tone, but I don’t know if it’s for real as I can’t hear anything when I play it! 🙁

20 thoughts

  1. I can hear it too. It’s a really high-pitched, solid tone. It’s rather unimaginative really. I can’t picture any adolescent actually picking that as a ringtone, even for the (supposed) stealth factor. I can, however, picture it being used as an instrument of war. Gah, is it terrible, or what?

  2. Save the MP3 to your computer and play it back in something like Windows Media Player with the one of the visualizations that minics graph of the sound spectrum. You’ll see the a big peek in the high range. Even better, use the cheesy graphic equalizer in Media Player — monkey around with the setting from 1K on up. This changes the sound and you’ll hear lower frequences in the ring tone amplified and you’ll hear that!

  3. Thanks for the link to the MP3, I have been passively looking for that. And yes i can hear it. 🙂
    Just an FYI, I played it via iTunes once I saved it (vs Quicktime initially) and iTunes actually downgraded it so that you can here it at a lower frequency. You may yet hear it….

  4. OK, now I have a headache from playing it too may times.
    Peter – iTunes must have done something to that effect.

  5. its almost the same sound most tv’s make … i can hear some tvs channel being changed with the tv volume off, me wearing a bandana… i can hear a tv on if im riding a bike by a house, or walking on a golf course, and its in a community and there are houses near the hole.
    so yeah… i can def. hear this.

  6. Yeah, I can hear it. The kids are apparently using it in the classroom where there teachers (for the most part) can’t hear it but the students can.
    I used to study Audio Engineering, and we used to an experiment based on this condition. If you can generate a tone that starts at about 10khz and slowly moves to about 20khz, and tell people to raise their hands when they stop hearing the tone, you will see that the range of people’s hearing reduces significantly as they get older. (Obviously there are a lot of other factors that effect hearing.)
    The tone that the device this ringtone was recorded from generates a tone at about 17khz. On average you would probably lose the ability to hear that tone in your late 20’s early 30’s from what I understand.
    – Danny

  7. Fairly annoying…
    I downloaded two versions from two different websites yesterday, I could hear one just fine, but the other one was dead silent. That got me worried, I thought it was just a prank and somebody uploaded an empty recording. I turned on the Visualizer in Windows Media and sure there it was I could ‘SEE’ the sound. I had to increase the volume on my PC to the max so I could hear a little bit.
    I’m 32 by the way.
    They say teenagers can use this to get calls without teachers knowing. I say just get one of the little LEDs that start blinking as soon as the phone gets a call.
    As a matter of fact, teachers worried about this should have a string full of the lights accros the classroom, as soon as somebody gets a call Xmas all over….
    not the best of inventions really. just some fun for teenagers

  8. I tried this the other day, and couldn’t hear anything, but tried it again today (to show my father-in-law) and I can hear it. Though, it didn’t hurt, it sdounded like my ears were ringing.

  9. I thought it was a trick too — but I’m really just getting old… My 9 year old can hear it fine. She says it is really annoying.
    Guess this is why shopkeepers in London are using a version of this sound to keep the teenagers from loitering in front of their shops… Perhaps it isn’t a bad thing after all.

  10. Someone at work found the sound a few days ago and we decided to put the theory to the test. I turned up my speakers as high as they go and pumped the sound across the office. People started complaining about a beeping sound that was starting to give them a headache, but no one could pinpoint the source. Now when I get a gathering of people chatting it up too close to my cubby to the point where I can’t concentrate, I just play the sound and they clear out.

  11. I’m almost 34, and I can hear it loud and clear. 17 years ago on a physics class, we measured everyone’s hearing – only half of us 17yr folks could go over 17kHz. I didn’t have problem with 19kHz back then.
    Then again, I always listen to my music in lossless formats when possible. These things relate, I guess. But it’s more like a curse than a blessing… 95% of people think you’re a snob (unrelated: I am 😉 when you say "mp3s suck!" 🙂

  12. i’m a teenager with two younger siblings
    i played this track and we all heard the high pitched sound
    but when i played it for my mother she couldn’t hear it

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