the mosquito ringtone

I recently learned about the mosquito ringtone. Have you heard about it? If you haven’t, I think it’s time you do. It is a sound that adults can’t hear and it is being used as a cellphone ringtone. There may be phones ringing right beside you that you’re missing.  

The history of Mosquito Ring Tone dates back to 2005 when a British inventor by the name of Howard Stapleton came up with an idea to keep teenagers from loitering outside of shops at night. He invented a product named “The Mosquito,” which blasts a loud and continuous 17.4KHz sound wave (about the same sound an actual mosquito would make) designed to make teens choose to choose not to loiter teens near storefronts. The welcomed adult shoppers couldn’t hear the sound. There is debate about whether or not it’s an ethical tool particularly when the sound was blasted at loud and uncomfortable levels. The Mosquito took advantage of a curious medical fact that most adults (and kids) are unaware of. Natural adult hearing loss is particularly acute at higher frequency ranges and most adults cannot hear ultra high frequency ranges after a certain age due to the condition known as Presbycusis.

As with any inventive good idea, sooner or later someone is going to use it for something other then the original intended purpose. In this case, some equally inventive teens in the inventor’s hometown caught on to what the company was doing and decided to put turn the idea into something they could use. They took the ultra sonic frequency and converted it into a cell phone ringtone. I think the thing that I found most interesting was the inventive nature of adolescents and that they figured out how to make this technology work in their favor. 

I accidentally discovered the original use as a teen repellent when I was trying to learn more about this curious ringtone that adults couldn’t hear. It gives me a bit more satisfaction that teenagers have found a way to use something that was initially conceived to work against them.

KFC used the concept in an advertisement. Follow this link to learn more:  KFC story With adults not hearing the ring, KFYC ran a contest that only people under a certain age could win. I think this is a very creative way to target a market, because in order to win, adults would have to depend on someone youth or children to win.

Here’s a link to a test: click here for the hearing test (I can hear up to and including the 15 kHz tone.  My sons took the test with me and they tell me that they can hear 16, 17 & 18 kHz.)

Most of the older teenagers I’ve talked with about the mosquito ringtone know about it and lots of them have it on their cell phones. You see adults, (think school personnel) don’t hear the ring. I encourage you to interview a few teens you know about it. It makes for some fun conversation.

The mosquito ringtone reminded me of a few stories. Maybe there is really something to that Christmas story, “The Polar Express.” You remember the part about being able to hear the bell ring? or what about the Peter Pan story?

This got me wondering what else I’m missing. I’m sure there’s a list of things I’m missing because I can’t perceive it. But I’ll be there’s some stuff that I could perceive, but I don’t for a variety of reasons. In the parable of the sower, it was “cares and pleasures” that choked the growth of the seeds. Or maybe I’m listening for God’s voice in the fire, the earthquake or the wind, and what I should be listening for is a still and small and quiet voice. I hope I’m tuning in with everything I’ve got.  How ’bout you?

Here’s a couple of information sources:

Wikipedia article – Mosquito Ringtone

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