The Science of Silence

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By Maya Dally

It’s well known that there is a fair difference between quiet and silent. Quiet is more about making very little noise, or not being disruptive. Though the word is thrown around frequently, silence is a very rare thing, only occurring when there is absolutely no sound. Everywhere we go, there is noise. Whether you live in the middle of nowhere, or in the middle of a city, or right here in McDonald County, there is noise. Wind rustling the trees, cars honking, people milling about, animals outside, an air conditioner, sound is nearly impossible to escape. However, there are some places in the world where you can experience nearly no audible noise to humans.

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In Minnesota, there is a place called The Orfield Laboratories, which was considered the quietest place on Earth according to Guinness World Records, allows some people to stay in Anechoic Chamber room for about an hour. It’s no secret that being in total silence allows you to hear the noises from your own body, such as your blood pumping, heartbeat, and the digestive system gurgling and moving around. Around 5-15% of people have Constant Ringing Ear Syndrome, which would be a very loud sound in silence. The lack of sound really opens up your ears to the noises that would normally be drowned out completely.

If you stay in the chamber long enough, your brain will even start to make up its own sounds. One radio show host stayed in for well over an hour and began to hear the wind, ambulance sounds, and Fleetwood Mac’s song, “Everywhere”. Going off of this, a lot of studies have shown that if we didn’t have the constant drone of our everyday lives, we would all be having auditory hallucinations due to the connections the brain makes to our ears. This essentially helps us distinguish between reality and thoughts. It’s much harder to determine what’s real and fake in absolute silence, almost impossible. Though everyone just wants some silence every once and a while, I think it’s easy to say that the absolute silence sounds kind of terrifying. Having so much noise isn’t such a bad thing after all, no matter what your teachers and parents say.

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