Monday, June 12, 2006

Coolest story I never heard

Saw a story on the ABC wire today about new "stealth" ringtones the kids are using to hear their phones ring, while preventing adults from doing so. (San Fran Chronicle article on same subject.) You probably know that high-frequency hearing is the first to go, and usually starts falling off around age 20. These ringtones are high-frequency tones that kids can hear, but adults can't.

ABC News filed a report by Jim Hickey which purported to tour the ringtone around their newsroom. The interns and desk assistants could hear the tone clearly, but the older reporters and editors could not. I thought the story was bullshit, because I inspected the waveform of the report, and there was nothing visible where the stealth tones were supposed to be -- just silence.

Rather than concluding that we'd all been had, I did some searching and found a web page with the stealth ringtone available for download. I played it, and the youngest person in the room immediately grabbed her ears and started complaining that someone was scratching a chalkboard or something. No one else, aside from our traffic reporter, can hear the damned thing. So, I guess it's true.

Frankly, I'm a little disappointed. I thought my high-end hearing was still decent. I routinely hear (and see) things that other people don't. (Not in a hallucinatory/delusional way, I must point out.) But I can't hear anything in that tone at all. Made me feel a little queasy after repeated loud listenings, though that may instead have been from noticing that a big paper cut on my finger had re-opened.

3 comments:

  1. i downloaded some tone generator software and can only hear to about 14.5kHz or so, and down to about 23hz...on my Sennheiser MX500 earbuds (in a noisy environment), which have a 18Hz - 22kHz response...doesn't bode well for my old age!
    Oh well, still won't affect my listening to rock music loadly!

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  2. i mean, loudly :)
    seems senility has crept in as well!

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  3. Try it on your cats. Mine went crazy.

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