In 2011, TV show 30 Rock featured a subplot where the writers discovered a sound only young people could hear. Character Jenna Maroney — a delusional narcissist in her 40s, played by the brilliant Jane Krakowski — spends the episode pretending to hear the sound to prove to people she is young.
Turns out, yep, there really is a sound only teens can hear.
The reason is there are areas of the body that deteriorate as we age. Hearing loss is one of those, with 30-35 percent of people aged 65 and older experiencing some form of hearing loss. The medical term for age-related hearing loss is presbycusis.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, “Most often, it affects the ability to hear high-pitched noises such as a phone ringing or beeping of a microwave. The ability to hear low-pitched noises is usually not affected.”
The loss happens due to changes within inner and middle ears, and nerve pathways to the brain. Other factors include genetics, medication side effects loss of hair cells that act as sensory receptors in the inner ear and exposure to loud noises, to name a few.
As mentioned above, high-pitched frequencies are affected by the changes and sounds like “s” and “th” can be difficult to hear and men’s voices are easier on ears experiencing presbycusis than women’s.
BuzzFeed put together a fun little test to see if its readers experience presbycusis.
It starts out with a sound for readers to play, followed by a poll asking if they could hear the noise.
The majority of poll respondents said yes.
The second of the three sounds is 14,400 hertz. This particular frequency is difficult for anyone over 40 to hear, perfect for the publication’s millennial-centric audience.
A lot of people could hear the sound, but DANG IT IS EAR SHATTERING.
The third sound is the TEENS ONLY sound. Coming in at 17,400 hertz, the sound has poll respondents split.
Finally, there is a sound that is difficult to hear for all ages, so BuzzFeed put that to the test.
The results – like the prior sound – are a little split.
BF asked its readers if they could hear all the sounds. Either the world has better hearing than we thought or there are some liars out there.
Audio: Tanner Ringerud/BuzzFeed
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