Teens use sound technology to communicate undetected

Same technology used in secret cell phone ringtone


ORLANDO, Fla. – If you needed one more sign that you're getting older, here you go. Turns out teens and young adults are capable of hearing many ultra high frequencies, while those of us over 30, well, we're not part of the club.

But don't let it get you down. You may not want to hear them anyway.

Moving Sound Technologies, a company out of Vancouver is selling an anti-loitering device called the "Mosquito." It broadcasts an annoying ultra high frequency between 17.5 and 18.5 kHz.

The sound is extremely annoying to teens yet adults don't hear a thing.

Company president Michael Gibson says he's sold the Mosquito to everyone from large fast food chains to local governments. Public parks are where they often end up.

The goal is always the same, keeping teens for loitering and vandalizing.

When the Mosquito is turned on it's only a matter of minutes before the teens move away. It's marketed as a non-confrontational way of discouraging anti-social behavior, vandalism and loitering.

The Mosquito meets all community noise standards and the company claims it's safe even after long term use.

Dr. Lisa Spiegel, audiologist at Florida Hospital says we begin to lose our hearing at a very early age. Infants and toddlers are capable of hearing high frequency sounds well above what is being transmitted on the Mosquito.

Almost immediately, the aging process causes the nerve cells in our inner ear to die. They never get replaced and we continue to lose hearing.

"We don't usually notice any real changes until we get significantly older, until it starts impacting the actual speech frequencies," said Dr. Spiegel.

Dr. Spiegel says that while circumstances are different for everyone, there is a bit of predictability to what you can hear at different stages in life.

Local 6 brought the Mosquito to Cornerstone Charter Academy in Belle Isle to see how the teens would react. The K-12 charter academy, with an emphasis on bio-medical studies, used the device as a teaching moment.

Science teacher LuCinda Coder explained to the class how hearing is damaged as we age. Everything from excessive noise to genetics can speed up the natural process of hearing loss.

The Mosquito worked just as advertised. Within seconds of hearing the tone most students had a negative reaction.

Student Austin Smothers, 16, said he heard it immediately.

"When I first heard it I was like 'what is that noise?' Then I remembered Channel 6 was coming in for a hearing test," Smothers said.

When asked if he would stay in the area if the sound was playing outside a business, he didn't hesitate. "No...No!"

Inventive teens have turned the tables on adults, downloading ringtones that only play an ultra high frequency. They can receive texts and calls all the while avoiding detection from parents and teachers.

About the Author: