- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2008

NEW YORK (AP) As 15-year-old Eddie Holder sprinted from his apartment for school one recent morning, he held his hand to one ear to block out a shrill, piercing noise.

he held his hand to one ear to block out a shrill, piercing noise.

The sound from a wall-mounted box can’t be heard by everyone. The device, called the Mosquito, is audible only to teens and young adults and was installed outside the building to drive away loiterers.

The gadget made its debut in the United States last year after infuriating civil liberties groups when it was first sold overseas. Already, almost 1,000 units have been sold in the United States and Canada, according to Daniel Santell, the North America importer of the device under the company name Kids Be Gone.

To Eddie, it’s tormenting.

“It’s horrible, loud and irritating,” he said. “I have to hurry out of the building because it’s so annoying. It’s this screeching sound that you have to get away from, or it will drive you crazy.”

The high-frequency sound has been likened to fingernails dragged across a chalkboard or a pesky mosquito buzzing in your ear. It can be heard by most people in their teens and early 20s who still have sensitive hair cells in their inner ears. Whether you can hear the noise depends on how much your hearing has deteriorated — how loud you blast your iPod, for example, could potentially affect your ability to detect it.

Civil liberties groups in England, Scotland and Australia have expressed outrage over the device, and England’s government-appointed Children’s Commission proposed a ban. They describe it as a weapon that infringes on the basic rights of young people, and claim it could even have unknown long-term health effects.

The $1,500 device has also been challenged in some American cities and towns.

Mr. Santell said the noise can be heard by animals and babies, but is bothersome only to children older than 12 and becomes unbearable after several minutes, making it a perfect teen repellent. The same sound is also used as a cell phone ring tone meant to fall on the deaf ears of adults, and is a popular download on the Internet.

The town of Great Barrington, Mass., banned the device last year after a movie theater owner installed one.

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