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.