What do you have and need but rarely notice?

What do you have and need but rarely notice?

Background noise.

What do you have and need, but rarely notice?

Yes, you need this.

In 2005, Orfield Laboratory in Minnesota built an anechoic chamber that absorbs 99.99 percent of the sound in it. The room is composed of 3-foot thick fiberglass wedges, double walls of insulated steel, and 12 inches worth of concrete. The noise level of the interior measures at -9.4 decibels, and it has been certified as the quietest place on earth [1].

No noise room

Here's the crazy part. The room can make you hallucinate.

Your brain uses the noise around you to help you stay oriented. The room takes these cues away, making it hard for you to balance and maneuver. According to the lab's president, "if you're there for more than half an hour, you have to be in a chair."

Meanwhile, your hearing gets more and more sensitive as your ears adjust to the lack of noise. You start to notice sounds like the beating of your heart and the movements of your scalp over your skull. Eventually, some people have aural hallucinations in attempt to satisfy the sensory inputs their brain craves.

Here's a description of the experience by Jad Abumrad of Radiolab [2].

It’s impossible to describe what true silence does to your ears. The moment the door went thwuck shut, my ear drums started to flutter. As if air was trying to force it’s way out my ears in little puffs. Felt a wee bit nauseous. Crackling. Like shadow static. I think my ears were physically searching for sound.

After about five minutes... A brief, very vivid flash of bees buzzing, like a swarm zooming by my head, doppler style, en route to attack another hive.

I’m no idiot. I know my mind invented the bees because ‘bee-hive’ was one of the last thoughts in my head before the lights went out. Regardless, the sound of bees in the dark was disconcerting.

After about twenty minutes, I began to hear a high pitched whine, which persisted. Not a hallucination, I’d later discover. According to the Bell Labbies, this was probably the sound of my circulatory system. I also heard the gentle thud of my heartbeat.

And finally, after about forty five minutes, another blip of sound, this one impossibly quiet and distant... as if drifted to me on the wind from a neighbor’s radio blocks and blocks away... a song.

“Everywhere. I wanna be with you everywhere.”

Fleetwood Mac of all things.

I don’t much care for Fleetwood Mac, but there it was. Just for a second. I remember thinking, how’d Fleetwood Mac get in here? And by here, at first I meant “the room” but then made a mental correction a moment later to “my head.” The room is quiet, my head apparently is not.



Most of us could use a little peace and quiet. But this? I think I'll pass.

 [Answer written by Quora user Alex Suchman. Link to original post]



[1] Humans begin to hear sounds at 0 decibels.

[2] This was in Bell Labs' anechoic chamber, not Orfield's. For the full report, see Hallucinating Sound.

 


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