In case you haven’t seen it yet, The New York Times reports today that New York-area schoolkids have resorted to an unusual solution to cellphone bans. Apparently unaware of phones’ vibrate mode, the students have opted for an incredibly annoying ringtone pitched at 17,000 Hz. Theoretically, “adults” shouldn’t be able to hear that. (The real issue is middle-aged adults, an ironic choice in New York schools where many of the faculty are younger.) I also think that’s a liberal estimate of hearing loss; while most people lose some of their high-end hearing as they age, the numbers from the private security firm quoted in the article seem a little odd — 12,000 Hz for a 50-year-old? I hope not! (Better cover your ears on the subways, huh?)

A Ring Tone Meant to Fall on Deaf Ears [; registration required and free story may expire]

The upshot of all of this is that there’s a free, if primitive, hearing test in the article (and presumably, all over the Web where these students are getting it). Hearing loss is a major problem; according to Aetna and the Harvard Medical School, 24% and 40% of adults over age 65 have difficulty hearing, and thirty percent of people over age 85 are deaf in at least one ear. For a better hearing test, here’s a free online example (I’m sure there are others online, and of course this does NOT substitute for a medical exam . . . nor can it measure just how annoying a kid with a cell phone can be):

Free Hearing Test

Anyone out there know what typical hearing loss figures are around middle age? (Lately, every time I write something some real experts show up out of nowhere, which is a pleasant experience!)