for the love of god turn that so-called music down


I’ve been reading with some fascination about the so-called mosquito tone that some teens (ACH! KIDS THESE DAYS©!!!) are using as ringtones so they can text each other in class without the teacher knowing. Due to prebycusis, humans tend to lose their hearing in high frequencies as they age, meaning tones over 16 KHz are completely inaudible to many folks over 25.

Using the sound as a ringtone is actually a great fuck-you to the Establishment, who had been using the noise to drive loitering teens away from the outside of convenience stores and pubs in Europe. When I lived in Hollywood in the late ’90s, they use to pump Vivaldi’s “The Seasons” outside the 7-11 on Sunset Blvd. to chilling effect; no teen came within three blocks. Perhaps the Germans should have tried that first.

My dad (and by proxy, me) offers a good case study in staying aurally virginal… in the days before flat-panel TVs, that man could hear the CRT television tube whine (about 16KHz) in the house – while he was still in the driveway in a running car. We played our music at such low levels, and my pain threshold is so low that I have never actually listened to loud music without earplugs, which has left me a) a complete pussy, and b) able to hear the highest tones like a 14-year-old jerk smoking clove cigarettes outside the Kwic-Mart with a smelly jean jacket on.

Anyway, there are a few tests online that can gauge your hearing, but be warned: the tones can mess up some cheap computer speakers. Also, tones get unreliable above 18KHz and some sound cards simply give you weird harmonic frequencies. Most of you, however, should be fine. They recommend using decent headphones, and turning it WAY DOWN to start. This is the test from Plasticmind, so go there if it doesn’t work here. Report back with your experience! Below are 5-second long .mp3 files.


11 KHz
12 KHz
13 KHz
14 KHz
15 KHz
16 KHz
17 KHz
18 KHz

0 thoughts on “for the love of god turn that so-called music down

  1. Salem's Little Sister

    Oh Crap! I max out at 14KHz. I am guilty of listening to music way to loudly on my headphones while I run and I’m pretty sure the summers of 95′ and 96′ when I waited tables in the VIP section of Walnut Creek didn’t help much either.

  2. Charlie

    I can hear the 15 KHz one but the 16 isn’t there at all. I just turned 31 on Friday, good sign that I’m getting old!

  3. Isaac

    Everything up to and including 16KHz is easy on my good headphones, 17 and 18 require the sound levels to be bumped up a a fair amount. Damn you loud music. Well, only a little.

  4. Kevin_In_Philadelphia

    I’m 29, and I can hear 11KHz – 16KHz easily, with the volume at a moderate level – about 10% of full. I can hear 17KHz and 18KHz as well, but I have to crank the volume up to about 60% of full to hear it.

  5. FreshPaul

    What gives?
    I’m 32, spent 4 years in big, eardrum ripping college band, and I can hear them all.
    my students are pissed.

  6. the Other Lee

    that’s odd
    I can hear fine up to 16, can’t hear 17 at all but can barely hear 18
    and I’m 36 by the way

  7. Anne

    I’m afraid to even try this. Too many rock concerts at close range.
    A few years ago I was at a concert in a Boston club and managed to squeeze close to the stage. Sadly, I was also VERY close to a huge vertical speaker cranking at high volume. I could feel and hear my auditory nerves frying. My left ear buzzed uncomfortably for several days afterwards. But… I just couldn’t bear to move farther away. Not that I could have, with the crowd behind me.
    I’m sure a hearing aid is in my future!

  8. GFWD

    Can’t hear 14 and up. Sweet! Finally, I get to rule the Gas & Sip on a Friday night, without those meddling kids! Where are you Ione Skye?
    What’s the deal withe Vivaldi song?

  9. Anne

    OK, I caved and tried them all. I sure hope it’s my computer or browser that’s failing, because otherwise I’m deaf. Couldn’t hear any of them. 8-/

  10. michelle

    I can hear all of them, which surprises me, as I sure thought I damaged my hearing at that Cramps concert in 1989.

  11. Carolyn

    I’m 33. Had my speakers down to 15 – 20% on my mac powerbook G4 and could hear all of them.
    Also, I heal super fast…like Wolverine fast. Perhaps these two quirks are related?

  12. josie

    Here in the office, through my cheapy speakers, I could hear up to 16. However…I still hear it. Aaaggghhh!
    I cant wait to get some headphones on dear husband and have him try this. He was a ramp rat for several years at Dulles, and occasionally worked the Concorde. There are certain pitches of my own voice which cause him to cower in pain….of course, loud rock music never seems to bother him…. This test may just blow his cover.

  13. jje

    Pfft – I just tried on my laptop (without headphones) and could hear through 14.
    But my four year old can hear all of them, so thank goodness for that.

  14. littlerattyratratrat

    If I max out my speakers, I can hear 13 khz. I’d blame Jimi and Jimmy, and maybe that Entwistle guy, but they didn’t make me buy that Fender Super Twin Reverb. Oh, well, at age 48, I only need my eardrums for another few decades—and you can’t take ’em with you. Rock on, brothers and sisters.

  15. wottop

    Yep 41 years old. I can hear 16 a little. 17 and 18 are gone.
    I saw the Who in 1989 at Cater-Finley stadium. They had twice the speakers that the Rolling Stones brought to the same venue. People were pulling off I-40 and rolling down the windows because they could hear it clear as day. I was wearing earplugs and my ears still rang for 3 days.
    It this point I have the most trouble hearing in noisy rooms. The person I am directly conversating with fades into the din. My 3-year-old son gets very annoyed when I turn my head for him to talk in my ear. Apparently, he thinks I hear with my nose.

  16. jje

    Ian – This is so random and doesn’t belong on this particular post, but I just saw this on perez and immediately thought of you:
    It was just announced that Katharine McPhee will be starring in a new NBC’s sitcom pilot The Pink House. The AI runner-up will play the “neighbor of two guys who move to LA and are determined to nab their dream jobs.”

  17. Anne

    Whew. This had me in a swivet today.
    With my home computer’s speakers turned up, I could finally hear the sounds … up through 14. After that, nada.
    So at least I am not *totally* deaf. “Eh??”

  18. Salem

    With excellent ear phones and the volume turned down to the very lowest setting, I could hear up to 14. If I turn it up a few bars I could hear 15 and 16. I knew my high frequency hearing was toast, but how did your ears survive me? Skinny Puppy at 140 decibels, might have been worth it.

  19. monheric

    At age 56, I came out about the same as Salem: up to 13 on lowest volume, higher for 14-16, quite high for 16-17, 18 fugeddit. You might think it was the 100+ Dead shows but I mainly blame Fourth of July ’76 Dave Mason at Foxboro Stadium, being right up against the speakers.
    Oh also have 3 or 4 tinnitus sounds going, my very own electronica. :-)

  20. Greg T.

    39 here… (listening through headphones on a laptop)
    up through 15 at low volume, no problem
    had to steadily increase the volume for 16-18, with 18 being around 80% and still dim.
    I could hear 17 & 18 VERY well when played at the same time ;)

  21. Greg T.

    btw, I was standing next to the amps at a Fishbone show 1 week ago tonight, so I’m damned lucky to hear any of them!

  22. ken

    Wow, I’m a drummer (have been for almost 30 years) a DJ (for 25 years) and flew daily in helicopters and Cessnas for 10+ years, I was prepared for the worst with my 40th birthday looming on Friday but I could hear up to and including the 16k tone. Not bad, old man.

  23. Charlie

    Just tried again, yesterday I couldn’t get above 15 and today I can hear them all…strange?! Even better, after I did the test again (at work, with headphones) I took the headphones off to hear my co-workers asking each other if they just heard that weird high pitch noise?

  24. Lars

    I’m 42 and can reliable hear up to 17. If the volume is down, I can’t hear 18. But I don’t have to turn it all the way up to hear 18.
    I wonder how the decibel level affects changes this test as an indicator of anything. The NYT chart attached to the Plasticmind article says to use 60dB, but I don’t know how to relate this to computer headphone volume.


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