Anechoic Chamber – Can Absolute Silence Make Someone Go Crazy
Anechoic chamber is a term used in acoustics, designed to reduce reflections and external noises in radio frequencies. They are mainly used in researches in several industries such as, biomedical (Medtronic, Respironics), industrial (Graco, Kohler), transportation (Cessna, Northwest airlines), consumer products (Harley-Davidson, Ford, Whirlpool, 3M) and government (city of Minneapolis and Richfield). Also used in testing radars, antennas and electromagnetic interferences, they are nowadays used for their quiet open space, in the quest for the experiments about the foretold myth – the absolute silence in that place drives people crazy.
Orfield Laboratories in South Minneapolis is the Holy Grail of anechoic chamber, also titled the World’s quietest room by the Guinness World Records. Although the silence in the room is promising, one cannot be so sure if they might find peace there. According to the Deccan Chronicle, nobody could survive 45 minutes in the chamber. What actually happens there is that, in the silence, which is observed to be -9.4DB, even the slightest noise will be amplified, making one aware of things such as their own heartbeat or rumbling of their stomach. The chamber only makes one aware of their surroundings and there are reasonable chances of making one disoriented and experiencing visual/aural hallucinations.
In 1960, Vosberg et al. discovered that the anechoic chamber produced high incidence of auditory and visual hallucinations even within an hour. Apparently, blocking or disrupting any senses for long, causes hallucinations. If the sound of one’s own heart beat could make people imagine things, then we shall not be called being judgmental for concluding the person is already insane, viz-a-viz, the person do not need an anechoic chamber to go crazy!
A guy called George Michelson Foy went on an adventure to the quietest place on earth to find whether absolute silence even exists. He describes the anechoic chamber to be a small room, massively insulated with layers of concrete steel to block out exterior sources of noise. The people, who were claustrophobic enough, demand the doors be opened in 15 minutes and the ones who developed panic attacks inside the room also gave up in a few minutes. Well, this guy really enjoyed the session to the contrary.
All those people who described the chamber bringing silence and depriving peace from them are clearly marked that they either cannot handle absolute silence or they are unfamiliar with the sounds of their bodies. For an average human, sensory isolation might cause hallucinations and paranoia, if they are exposed to the state for a long time. It is a well-known fact that sensory isolation can make an average human to hallucinate and with the unusual bodily sounds, it could get worse. But, people George Foy shows us that there is much more to research on this isolation and it’s plausible that sensory isolation might not actually be the reason.
Sure answer, if the anechoic chamber causes hallucinations? We’ll never know unless we go on our own adventure to the quietest place on the earth.
This post was first published on January 31, 2014.
Derek Muller from Veritasium actually tried this and he came out of it like a bad ass, disproving everything. Check out the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXVGIb3bzHI. But it is worth going to that place.