There is a sound that only teenagers and small children can hear, but adults over the age of generally around 23 cannot. While most people would say there is no potential application, the sound has actually been utilized by certain shopping centers to drive teenage customers away.
It’s called the Mosquito sound. Somewhere between 17 and 18 kilohertz, those with young ears can hear an incredibly intense noise capable of causing headaches and generally being unpleasant while those whose hearing has been damaged by general wearing from normal life hearing cannot. The loss of hearing over the 17 kilohertz range is considered largely normal for adults. While this small range may seem insignificant to many, a device called the Mosquito is being installed in several shopping centers to drive younger customers away. Why would a business wish to cater only to those above the age of 23?
Many bars, for instance, find the device a deterrent to underage drinkers. Malls and convenience stores hoping to avoid loiterers often install the device in order to force teens to hang out elsewhere. But with this device comes an important question of ethics as well. While they may not generally have the same spending power as older people, teenagers and young adults certainly feel they have every right to frequent the same stores as older adults. Will this sound that adults cannot hear cause an ageist gap between those younger and older? Will the reduced spending of teenagers in certain establishments lead to the downfall of those establishments?
In a recent interview with the Washington Post, DC one Council member certainly didn’t think so. In reference to the complaints he had been receiving, Evans made his position clear, stating that he was concerned over complaints of lawlessness and concerns over safety. But are the safety concerns largely age related?
Still others are concerned about installing any sort of device that discourages of services based on hearing frequency. The issue is particularly interesting considering many adults can hear into 17 kilohertz long after they reach age 26. One man, aged 32 has reportedly started complaining about the devices as he can hear them. Not wishing to encourage policies that could limit his mobility, he is one of several who will be unable to use subway stations where the device is in use.
The use of a frequency that parents can’t hear has also given rise to cell phone tones that only teens can use as well. The idea of a device that emits frequencies in the 17.5 hz range has given rise to several new applications to subvert authority figures even as the frequency is used to enforce it.
Generally when you take a hearing test, one of the things tested is the range of frequency you can hear. While some with excellent hearing can hear the “mosquito sound” many cannot. Since the phenomenon is not exclusively age related, some find the mosquito alarm to be unnecessarily annoying and punishing to those who have good hearing.