How Old Are Your Ears? Find Out With This Hearing Test.

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 15 2013 4:27 PM

How Old Are Your Ears? Find Out With This Hearing Test.

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Come again?

Photo by JACQUELYN MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images

If you're anything like us, you haven't heard the high-pitched tones of a hearing test since fifth grade. Remember how proud you were to raise your hand at the nice lady every few seconds to indicate everything was coming in loud and clear?
 Well, prepare to feel a lot less proud. The folks at AsapScience are here with a hearing test to show that even if you're smarter than a fifth-grader, you probably can't hear as well as one.

The video starts with a pitch of 8,000 Hz, which every non-hearing-impaired person under 500 ought to be able to hear, and cranks up the dial till it reaches 19,000 Hz, which you probably can't hear unless you're under 20, or a dog. Why are hearing tests always made up of annoying squeals rather than regular sounds? As the narrator explains, sound waves break and bend the hair cells that transmit sound through the ear canal. And as it happens, the hair cells in charge of higher pitches are the first ones hit by incoming sound, so they're the first to go. The older you are, the less annoying the background noise on an airplane gets, because you simply can’t hear it.

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Be sure to play the video at 1080p (yes, the sound quality is linked to the picture quality) and while wearing headphones. You can change the video's resolution by clicking on the little gear symbol in the bottom right of the screen. Or don't watch the video at all, if you'd rather not find out your ears are 12 years older than they should be, like mine. I knew those years as a roadie for GWAR would catch up to me.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Ryan Vogt is a Slate copy editor.

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