The Teen Buzz "Ultrasonic" Ringtones

Can you hear these "ultrasonic" ringtones?



The Teen Buzz ultrasonic ringtones were created by teenagers so that they could be alerted to incoming text messages or calls on their cell phones without nearby adults becoming aware of it. These "secret ringtones" take advantage of the fact that as people age, they lose some of their hearing sensitivity, especially in the higher frequencies. So a high-frequency tone that is at the edge of audibility for most teenagers will be inaudible to many adults over age 20, and to most adults over the age of 30.

The tones are not, strictly speaking, ultrasonic, because they can be heard by normal, healthy young people, but they are sometimes called "ultrasonic" ringtones because they are above the frequency range of hearing for most adults. Teen Buzz ultrasonic ringtones may range from 10 to 20 kilohertz (kHz); 14.4 kHz is one frequency commonly used as a "silent" ringtone.

The idea for the Teen Buzz ultrasonic ringtones was inspired by the Mosquito Device, an invention designed to disperse loitering teens by emitting a high-frequency tone (17.4 kHz) that most teens can hear but most adults cannot. The Mosquito Tone is not only high frequency but is specially modulated to be annoying.

Can You Hear the "Ultrasonic" Ringtones?

To test whether you can hear these high-frequency tones, first make your environment as quiet as possible, turning off anything that is making unnecessary sound. Then play the lower-frequency (8-kHz) test tone below, which should be audible to most people with healthy hearing, regardless of age. As you play this tone, adjust the volume so that it is clearly audible through your computer speakers or headphones but is not uncomfortably loud. Then leave the volume alone as you test the other tones. This is important to avoid damaging your hearing or your speakers. Even tones that you cannot hear can damage your hearing (or your speakers or headphones) if they are too loud.

Note: If your browser doesn't load the tones, click here to download and install the QuickTime player.


8-kHz Test Tone (4 seconds)


Use this tone to adjust your volume, and then leave it alone.

To play this sound file inline, you need to install QuickTime player.


14.4-kHz Teen Buzz Ringtone (4 seconds)


To play this sound file inline, you need to install QuickTime player.


17.4-kHz Mosquito tone, without modulation (4 seconds)


To play this sound file inline, you need to install QuickTime player.

Did you hear them? If you did, congratulations! You can hear sounds at frequencies that are out of range for many adults. Be sure to protect your hearing from overexposure to noise so you can maintain that sensitivity for as long as possible.

Check Your Speakers

If you didn't hear both tones, it's possible that your speakers or headphones aren't able to play the high-frequency sounds properly, especially if they are older speakers or cheap headphones. How can you tell if the problem is with your ears or with your speakers? There are a few things you can do to check:
  • Do you have a dog or a cat? Unless your pet is hard of hearing, it will probably notice the sound and perk up its ears. If so, that means the tone is playing properly. If there is no dog or cat handy, you might also try this test on a family member or roommate, especially if he or she is younger than you.
  • If you're using speakers, try headphones, or vice versa. Or try it on a different computer. (In either case, remember to start over again with the 8-kHz test tone!)
  • If you can't hear the 14.4-kHz tone, try playing it simultaneously with this 15-kHz tone. (Click this tone first to start it playing, then immediately click the 14.4-kHz tone above, so they are both playing at once.)

    To play this sound file inline, you need to install QuickTime player.

    If it's the 17.4-kHz tone you're questioning, try playing it simultaneously with this 18-kHz tone. (Click this tone first to start it playing, then immediately click the 17.4-kHz tone above, so they are both playing at once.)

    To play this sound file inline, you need to install QuickTime player.

    Here's what will happen: If both tones are inaudible to you but are playing properly, you should be able to hear a soft but distinct lower tone, created by the acoustic beats caused by the interference of the two tones with each other. Even if each tone played separately is inaudible to you, this acoustic beat frequency is at an audible frequency. If you can hear this tone when the two sounds are played together, it means your speakers are playing both of the higher frequency notes.

Frequencies of Some Other Sounds

  • Are you one of those people who can instantly tell if a TV is on in the room or somewhere in the house, even if it is muted or in standby mode? If so, you are able to hear up to 15.6 or 15.8 kHz, which is the horizontal scanning frequency range of a cathode-ray tube (CRT) TV:

    To play this sound file inline, you need to install QuickTime player.

  • For comparison, the highest note on a piano is 4186 hertz (Hz) (or 4.186 kHz). This is a much lower pitch than any of the tones above:

    To play this sound file inline, you need to install QuickTime player.

  • Most of human speech is in the range from 300 to 4000 Hz, with some consonant sounds ranging up to 10 kHz.

  • An actual mosquito (the insect with wings) buzzes at 400 to 600 Hz, a frequency which is within practically everyone's frequency range of hearing:

    To play this sound file inline, you need to install QuickTime player.




See also:
Causes and effects of high-frequency hearing loss

The high-frequency sounds on this page are given in .wav format rather than .mp3 format, because the compression algorithm used in creating .mp3 files causes distortions in the higher frequencies, so .mp3 files are not reliable to use for the purpose of demonstrating high-frequency tones. The .wav format is a lossless encoding format and does not have this problem.

Mosquito Buzzing sound recorded by Mike Koenig; some rights reserved. All other sound files created by Sarinne Fox.





Leave this page ("Ultrasonic" Ringtones) and go → Back to Noise in Sight, Sound, and Thought
Leave this page ("Ultrasonic" Ringtones) and go → Back to Noise Help home page
















Stay in touch:

on Twitter!  




Affiliate Disclosure:
Some of the links on this website are affiliate links, which means that I may earn a commission if you click on the link or make a purchase using the link. When you make a purchase, the price you pay will be the same whether you use the affiliate link or go directly to the vendor's website using a non-affiliate link. By using the affiliate links, you are helping support the noisehelp.com website, and I genuinely appreciate your support.
Sarinne Fox
Creator and author of noisehelp.com



This website is powered by SBI! .