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The Sound of Isolated Silence

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Anechoic chamber

This is the room

We live in a world full of noise. Full of life. Cars humming and honking, people talking to each other, birds chirping, kids laughing and playing, adults yelling at football games and bantering about politics. We're greeted with jingles and alerts on Facebook and in texts. Televisions and radio provide us with the sounds of entertainment. We experience all of this loudness every day.

But there’s one sound that we tend to overlook: silence. It’s a sound that’s hidden from us, until a moment arrives where ambiance is suspended, and we find ourselves isolated. How appropriate that there is an anechoic chamber in Minnesota that has been titled as “the world’s quietest room.” The chamber’s background noise has been measured to be -9.4 decibels, while the human ear cannot detect noise beyond 0 dB, making the room completely sound-proof. The longest anyone has withstood the room is 45 minutes. Think that’s an easy record to break? Think again.

Those who have attempted to withstand the isolation in this dark, echoless room have claimed that within just a minute or two, you could hear the blood pumping through the body. Your breathing becomes louder. Your heartbeat is amplified. After 6 minutes, your own thoughts seem to become audible. Certain participants began to hallucinate after only 15-20 minutes. They would see objects that weren’t really there. They would develop the feeling of being watched by malevolent beings. They would see faces staring at them from the corners of the chamber. Lab workers now supervise the chamber’s exit, because the intensity of the silence has even caused a few visitors to temporarily lose their sense of balance and their ability to walk, which led to their inability to escape.

If none of this intimidates you (though it definitely should) and you have money to spend, feel free to book a flight to Minneapolis. Take a taxi from Saint Paul International Airport to Orfield Laboratories. You might get lucky and set a new Guiness World Record. Or you might fall short and experience the same unsettling sensations as the participants before you. Either way, once you leave that room, you will be forever thankful for living in a world full of noise. And you will never hear silence the same way ever again.

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