Mosquito Ringtones: What You Don’t Hear Can’t Hurt You

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by Matt Rygh *

Do you hear that? That high-pitched, tinny tone? I don’t, but then I’m not supposed too. The sound is coming from my daughter’s cell phone, and she can hear it quite clearly. Her phone lets her know that she has an incoming text message, but the ringtone is at a frequency that adults simply can’t hear. That’s because the ringtone is emitted at an ultra-high frequency. These ringtones, known as ‘Mosquito ringtones’, ‘teen buzz’, or ‘adult-proof ringtones’ are clear as a bell to kids in classrooms, but well outside of the hearing range of their teachers.

Most people have an audible range of frequencies from 20 Hz on the low end, to 20,000 Hz (20 kHz) at the high end of the spectrum. There is significant variation from one person to another, especially at the high frequency end, where a gradual decline with age is considered normal. There is, however, one constant: young people overall can hear much higher pitches than adults. Young children can typically hear up to 22 kHz. By age 30, most of us can’t hear anything above 15 kHz, and by 60 anything higher than 10 kHz is virtually undetectable. Websites like Free Mosquito Ringtones offer hearing tests and ringtone downloads, while forcing inquisitive parents to confront the reality that hearing loss is an inescapable side effect of aging.

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