Does age affect our ability to hear at higher frequencies

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The hearing section of Chapter 5 in Lilienfeld mentioned that as we age our ability to hear higher pitches decreases. According to an article in the New York Times, a group of British store owners used this idea to prevent teenagers from loitering by playing a screeching sound only the teens could hear.  However, the teens took this idea and turned it around to create a ringtone that students couldn't hear but parents and teachers could not. 


The article had an mp3 attachment of the sound for readers to test their own hearing.   After learning that I could hear what sounded like a screeching microphone or nails on a chalkboard, I decided to test this idea on the rest of my family.  I turned out my sister could hear it, but our parents could not.  My sister and I are both in our 20s and our parents in their 50s. The article mentioned a cutoff age of around 30 years.  Because 4 people is a very small sample size, I found a downloadable file of the sound and sent it out to my entire contact list for my personal email, as well as Professor Briggs, explaining that I was doing a study for my Psychology class and just to let me know if they heard this sound.  In order to prevent demand characteristics or possible lying, I asked them to also tell me what they heard.


Including the 4 people in my family, there were a total of 25 responses.  It turned out that everyone under 45 could hear the noise.  Additionally, my 63 year old aunt could hear the noise.  The results showed a negative correlation (r = - .7896) between age and ability to hear at that high of a frequency.  This means that as a person gets older their ability to hear higher frequencies worsens.  However, this is a correlational study, so we cannot determine a cause and effect relationship.  Furthermore, a sample size of 25 may not be large enough to prevent outliers from skewing the results. 


Here is a link to the article:

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This page contains a single entry by rangn001 published on October 9, 2011 7:04 PM.

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