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Ever noticed that when in a quiet environment, your hearing becomes more sensitive, often making you paranoid about the things around you? (Especially when you made the mistake of watching a horror movie and decided it was a good time to walk outside at night)
This is due to your ear’s ability to adapt when ambient noise seems absent. It works harder to listen to the surroundings in search for sound. While this usually results in you having a heightened audio awareness of your surroundings, it gets far more bizarre when you are in an anechoic chamber.
An anechoic chamber is a room with purpose of blocking out as much external sound as possible. This audio isolation from the rest of the world makes it a great place to test products for sound, which are often too subtle for us to actively notice, but companies such as Harley-Davidson (a motorbike maker) and Whirlpool (a washing machine maker) know that the sound quality can subconsciously affect consumer decisions.
Harley-Davidson, for example, used the anechoic chamber to test the sound of their bikes to make them quieter but still having that “Harley-Davidson” feel.
There are many anechoic chambers around the world. In Singapore, the A*Star anechoic chamber is located at fusionopolis. But the title of quietest anechoic chamber of them all belongs to the anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
By now, you must be wondering what it must be like to be in a room where 99.99% of all external sound is blocked. Well you are not the first, as many have since tried to stay within the room as long as they possible can.
This is much harder than one can ever imagine, especially since we have never felt this before. It is like being deaf, but with your ears fully functioning.
As your ears start to adapt to the silence, it desperately search and priorities any sound available – but with virtual all external sound block, the only source of sound is yourself!
Minutes into this surreal experience, you will start to hear sounds made by your body such as the beating of the heart or the filling of oxygen in the lungs. Most people will start to feel uncomfortable, and some may hear sounds that their mind made up or even hallucinate.
But with an surround as strangely designed as the anechoic chamber and with nothing to do during the duration, it is no wonder that currently, the official longest duration of someone who stayed in the anechoic chamber is only a mere 45 minutes.
Even if you were to try to do something to distract yourself from either absolute silence or absolute boredom, you can’t.
Believe it or not, sound plays an important part in our movements and balance. Without it, you will feel diorientated and coordination will be impaired. Thus if you are to stay in the room for over 30 minutes, you will need to sit on a chair.
Steve Orfield, the company’s founder and president, lasted 30 minutes within the unusual walls, all while tolerating the sound that was made by his mechanical heart valve inside him.
If you want to find out how an anechoic chamber works, check out this paper here.
This location is part of OKJ’s Travel Bucket List.
Why I want to go there:
With such a surreal experience in a location that does not require me to climb mountains or trek through jungles, going to Orfield Laboratories is a no-brainer. In fact, Orfield Laboratories embraces their record holding facility and encourages the public to experience it for themselves, with tours of the facilities being made available. Steve Orfield also encourages people to peek an interest of his facility, as has been known to happily show guests and some impromptu visitors around. Check out this article for a particular instance.
It would also be awesome to attempt to break a world record, something that will definitely be on my mind if I were there. But if I do not succeed, there is one heck of a consolation prize in the form of an unforgettable experience!