Adult-Proof Ringtones

Status: Undetermined
I've received quite a few emails about this. A British paper,, reports that resourceful teenagers have devised a way to make the ringing of their cellphones inaudible to adults. The trick is that they've recorded the sound of the Mosquito, which is a device that emits ultrasonic tones inaudible to most people over the age of twenty-five, but quite audible, and rather annoying, to people under the age of 25:

Techno-savvy pupils have adapted the Mosquito alarm, used to drive teenage gangs away from shopping centres. They can receive calls and texts during lessons without teachers having the faintest idea what is going on. The alarm, which has been praised by police, is highly effective because its ultra-high sound can be heard only by youths but not by most people over 20. Schoolchildren have recorded the sound, which they named Teen Buzz, and spread it from phone to phone via text messages and Bluetooth technology. Now they can receive calls and texts during lessons without teachers having the faintest idea what is going on.

Can this be real? Well, the Mosquito is real enough (I posted about it back in November 2005), and it is true that young people can usually hear higher frequencies than older people because we lose the ability to hear high frequencies as we age. The question is whether cellphone speakers can generate these ultrasonic frequencies. Boing Boing posts a comment from one of their readers who swears that cellphone speakers would not be able to do this. However, another reader links to an article that contains an mp3 recording of the Mosquito sound. (When I listen to it I can't hear any high-pitched noise, just a bunch of street noise.) So if computer speakers can generate these frequencies, perhaps some high-end cellphone speakers also can. Seems plausible. In other words, I'm not yet willing to label this story as a hoax or false rumor, even though it does seem to be a bit far-fetched.


Posted on Thu May 25, 2006


Wow! Im 15 and i could hear it super clear! Mind you it is annoying but i mean it was very high pitched. Then i asked my mom to hear it and she said hear what? So i guess it does work. i wish i had bluetooth tech. on my cell but i dont. hmph.
Posted by Emma-Lee  in  Canada  on  Sun Jul 16, 2006  at  08:28 AM
I am 40 and I can't hear it, but I can feel it. It hurts my ear drums really bad. and makes my neck muscles tighten up.
Posted by Kris  in  Arkansas  on  Tue Aug 15, 2006  at  10:10 AM
Oh, that was a horrible noise! It was loud and ringing, sort of buzzing. I'm 18 and I can hear it TOO well.
Posted by Anonymous  on  Tue Aug 22, 2006  at  06:07 PM
I'm 16 and I hear it perfectly. I showed my dad and he couldn't hear it at all. He has one bad ear, but I'll try it with my mom when she gets home. I put the sound on my phone (i870) and it sounds just like it came out of my speakers. On my computer, if I put the speaker too loud it feels like my heads gonna explode. So I guess that is a good way to keep teens out of stores. Oh and I couldn't hear any street noise at all. Just the buzz.
Posted by Luis  on  Sun Aug 27, 2006  at  10:28 AM
I saw this story a few days ago on BBC America and then again on ABC's Nightline program. I'm 25 and I can hear the sound plain as day, although it's not the highest pitch I can hear.

If I turn my television on, and put the sound on Mute, I can hear the high-pitched whine coming from the CRT tube perfectly clear. Also, when my computer monitor displays a lot of white on the screen at a refresh rate of lower than 80hz, I can hear that too. Both are MUCH higher pitched than the mosquito.

I think it's the "pulsing" sound that adds to its annoyance. One can easily tune out a constant noise, but if it's pulsing it makes it harder to ignore.
Posted by Tom  in  United States  on  Sun Aug 27, 2006  at  10:35 AM
I can hear it, but it hurts my ears and makes me angry. Why can't they make it play some high frequency music lol.
Posted by Justin  in  USA  on  Sun Aug 27, 2006  at  05:03 PM
im 41 and i can hear it fine....?
Posted by leanne  in  australia  on  Sun Sep 03, 2006  at  04:38 AM
if u wanna hear it go here
Posted by bob  on  Mon Sep 04, 2006  at  06:55 PM
I'm 16 and all i can hear is what sounds like a car driving past and somone distant talking, no high pitched noises
Posted by Jay  in  Isle of Man  on  Mon Sep 11, 2006  at  11:56 AM
I'm 26 and i've been plauged by these sounds all my life. TV's / Monitors that dont have a source going to them, those pesky anti rodent devices.

Last sunday i went into a pub with my girlfriend and her family for a meal and they had a few of these devices around the pub. I walked in and heard them right away and because there was more then one the pulsing was sickening. My girlfriend and her family couldn't hear these devices but could tell i was in distress. I went to the bar and ask the manager if they could be turned off which he refused , claiming i couldn't hear them and was making a fuss. so i decided to unplug these devices myself. He was not happy, but then being backed up by the people i was with we said we would not stay in the pub and find somewhere else to eat unless they stayyed off. I politly reminded the manager that these devices annoy a number of people and that he would not be happy if he was put in a room is an alarm he could not turn off and that he could turn them back on after i left. Half way thou the meal he came over and said sorry because one of this bar maids said that her son wouldn't come into to the pub to pick her up because of the same thing...
Posted by Daniel  in  Birmingham  on  Thu Sep 14, 2006  at  01:47 PM
Wow, that was annoying. I'm 27, and I could hear it plain as day. Horribly annoying... Of course, I do produce music and mess with high and low frequencies a lot. So I have kinda trained my ears to pick up on highs and lows. I do have a slight headache now though. wow.
Posted by Charles Garcia  in  Las Vegas  on  Thu Sep 28, 2006  at  12:51 PM
Oh, yeah, I hear it! I'm 25. I tried months ago and could just barely hear it, but now I hear it louder. Interesting.
Posted by Fox Mulder  on  Mon Oct 02, 2006  at  11:30 PM
i played the sound
i could hear the sound fine
it hurts my ears after a while
neither of my parents could hear it
but my brother and i could
Posted by chirs  on  Tue Oct 03, 2006  at  06:28 PM
this thing is so annoying ! im 55 and i can still hear it ! get rid of it !
Posted by olga  on  Wed Oct 04, 2006  at  09:07 AM
At 34 I can still hear it (yeah for me) and so can my wife (30). But she was a music major with a piano background, while I was in chior and heavy into music. Plus, we've both always been able to hear a TV turn on, so I'm guessing we're probably an anomaly.
Posted by Kevin  in  Sun Valley, NV  on  Wed Oct 04, 2006  at  02:42 PM
Wow, i didin't know if what they say is true, but it is! I can hear it, im 14 and my parents have no idea it is being played! Although, i suggest to other people who can only hear the crowd noise to go to another website and listen to it there.
Posted by Fatcatjak  in  England  on  Tue Oct 10, 2006  at  09:34 AM
OMG. That is the worst sound ever. It reminds me of when I was a kid and I could here the frequency of the alarm in the department store. It was so bad I would have to leave. I'm 26 now, and I can still hear it. It sounds like: a tv being turned on, one of those insect repellent sounds that ended up repelling me instead, and the sound before a jet engine turns on.

If I was a teacher, I would probably go postal on my students.

If you can't hear it..ignorance is bliss.
Posted by Ebby  in  USA  on  Fri Oct 13, 2006  at  09:16 AM
Wow, im 13 and i cant hear it at all!
Posted by nopppppppppeeeeeee  in  nnnooooooooopppppppppeeee  on  Tue Oct 17, 2006  at  07:40 PM
I'm 38 and I can hear that ringtone! It is definitely headache inducing.
Posted by maggiethebeagle  on  Sun Oct 22, 2006  at  12:02 PM
im 13 i can hear it damm clearly

Posted by bla bla  on  Wed Oct 25, 2006  at  12:34 PM
im 43...
and with headphones.. i can hear it distinctly.
rather annoying.
dont hear it on the computer speaks.

Posted by John  in  Honolulu  on  Fri Nov 03, 2006  at  05:51 PM
Make it go away.

I'm 13, and I could hear it at the volume of 1. I don't know why, but all of a sudden my head felt hot, and I started jerking...hopefully it will wear off. I even started crying. I played it at night, but nobody woke back hurts now. I hope this goes away.
Posted by Jamie  in  Texas  on  Sun Nov 05, 2006  at  09:46 PM
i could definately hear it and so could the rest of my class, my teacher couldn't though!!
Posted by mo  on  Thu Nov 16, 2006  at  07:09 AM
I could hear that sound even before I turned the speakers up loud enough to be able to hear the "street" sounds, as you described them.

The sound is some sort of chirping noise...Kind of hard to describe exactly, though.
Posted by Tsukiyo  on  Thu Nov 16, 2006  at  04:26 PM
I'm only 13 and I have heard the pitch many times before on MTV and when my teacher showed it to the class. But when I downloaded the mp3 mosquito sound file, it sounds just like you've described it: 'street noise'. I can hear it loud and clear and it is rather annoying even with headphones on.
Posted by Kylie  on  Sun Nov 19, 2006  at  03:42 PM
i'm only 16 and couldn't hear it at all at first, wasn't until i turned it up quite loud that i could identify the noise. As a ring tone i'd probably miss every call. What wilth it being in my bag under 8 books and a smushed sandwich and all.

Couldn't hear it on the tv ad either.
Posted by Gabrielle  in  Byron Bay  on  Mon Dec 18, 2006  at  05:12 AM
Hm, that probably means one could record a pest-repelling sound from some ultrasonic repeller and let it play from his or her speakers as well? Can one download that kind of mp3 somewhere?
Posted by Harassmenko  in  USSR  on  Mon Jan 01, 2007  at  10:57 AM
I am 25 and I can kind of hear it my little sister is 13 and it pops up to her like a plane crash....
Posted by Ci-C  in  USA  on  Tue Jan 23, 2007  at  07:30 PM
You can get them from here

I'm only 19 and couldn't easily hear higher than 16.7kHz.
Posted by J  in  Canada  on  Thu Jan 25, 2007  at  06:53 PM
I am 35 years old and have harmed my hearing so bad at tesla and metallica concerts and I can still here it very loudly and it's an extremely annoying.

It feels like I turned into a dog and I can hear a dog whistle when I listen to it.raspberry

Old people can hear it, so it's not really effective.
Posted by neo  on  Mon Jan 29, 2007  at  04:47 PM
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