Excessive silence may cause hallucinations


Credits: YurB via Flickr // Creative Commons

Silence might be peaceful, but the quietest place on the planet, with 99.99 percent sound absorbance, is actually unbearable after a while. Located at Orfield Laboratories in South Minneapolis, the ‘Anechoic Chamber’ is capable of causing dizziness, hallucinations, and possibly driving sensitive people insane. While there have been rumors that the longest anyone has stayed in the room is 45 minutes in 2014, Veritasium, a Youtube personality, discarded that myth and stayed in the room for about an hour, without going through extreme levels of anxiety.  

In order to understand the how this chamber works, it is necessary to first understand the attributes of sound. Sound is a vibration that propagates through a medium, such as air, water, solids, before it reaches the ear. Sound waves pass through the ear canal to the eardrum, and then into the inner ear. The hair cells in the inner ear change the vibrations into electrical signals that are sent to the brain through the auditory nerve. Cool, right?!

The effect of the anechoic chamber is created because of the double walls of insulated steel, and three feet of thick fiberglass acoustic wedges. The sound level of the room is -9 decibels, while a typical quiet room averages around 30 decibels. The structure of the room is designed to absorb all the sound waves, instead of reflecting them as most surfaces do.

The room is so quiet that it is possible to hear individual organs including the heart, lungs, and stomach.


Essentially, in the anechoic chamber, the person becomes the sound.

— Saniya Joshi


According to the president of the Orfield Laboratories, Mr. Steven J. Orfield, the experience is so disorienting that it is crucial for people to sit down inside. However, the purpose of this chamber isn’t to get people to feel dizzy or hallucinate; actually, it’s used by companies and manufacturers for formal product testing. Products are tested to see how loud they are and to analyze sound quality.

The concept of excessive silence being discomforting suggests how anything, really, in excess can be harmful. For example, too much water consumption in a short period of time can be intoxicating, extreme exposure to sunlight (without sunscreen) harms the skin, and drug overdose obviously has dangerous side effects. Early symptoms of rapid water consumption and over-hydration include, headaches, vomiting, and nausea. While this is extremely rare, it still shows how an excess of something leads to dangerous consequences. Further, prolonged exposure to sunlight without protection enables harmful ultraviolet rays to damage cells and increase the risk of getting skin cancer. According to the Cancer Council, ultraviolet radiation from the sun is the leading cause for almost all skin cancers. Lastly, drug overdose may cause problems such as but not limited to; nausea, organ damage, high or low blood pressure, and chest pain.

This doesn’t mean that people should live in a constant state of panic and alarm about moderating personal consumption of items. It is always good, though, for us to be aware of our daily habits and surroundings! Maybe total silence isn’t so golden after all, but there is no denying that every once in awhile, everyone needs to indulge into their quiet place for escapism.


Sources: discovery.com, dailymail.co.uk, youtube.com, webmd.com, cancercouncil.com.au