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A Sound System So Loud It Could Kill You


"No human being could survive hearing."

A horn that is part of the European Space Agency's (Image source: ESA/Guus Schoonewille)

There's the phrase "if it's too loud, you're too old." And then there's a sound system so loud it could kill.

ESA ESTEC Noordwijk A horn that is part of the European Space Agency's Large European Acoustic Facility. (Image source: ESA/G. Schoonewille)

The European Space Agency's Large European Acoustic Facility has a sound system resembling a human ear canal that "no human being could survive hearing it at maximum output."

The purpose of the sound system is to expose satellites to the level of noise they would experience by a launcher during a takeoff and atmospheric flight, the space agency's website explained.

One wall in the test center based in the Netherlands has sound horns through which nitrogen is shot, producing noise up to 154 decibels, which the space agency said would be similar to standing near several jets as they took off.

To ensure scientists aren't harmed several precautions are taken to contain the noise.

"As a safety feature, LEAF can operate only once all the doors are closed," the space agency explained. "Steel-reinforced concrete walls safely contain its noise, coated with epoxy resin to reflect noise to produce a uniform sound field within the chamber. The chamber itself is supported on rubber bearing pads to isolate it from its surroundings."

One commenter on the space agency's post pointed out that it might be a "slightly dubious" claim for the agency to say "no human being could survive" the sound system at full blast.

"Has it been tested? Have you subjected for instance hapless mammals to such sound levels that they died? If not it is an unscientific and therefore sensationalist claim," the commenter going by the username Sputnik01 wrote.

According to the National Institutes of Health, noise-induced hearing damage and loss can result at 85 decibels or higher. In July 2013, The Washington Post explained how sound could kill:

Acoustic grenades can go roughly from 120 decibels to 190 decibels. German researcher Jurgen Altmann showed that a blast of 210 decibels or more affects the inner organs — the lungs — and could cause internal injury that could lead to death. A blast will impact the body, and would do so very violently.

From an emotionally harmful standpoint, The Washington Post reported that total silence might be more effective  because it is "an extremely violent form of destruction for an individual." Supporting this point, the average person was only able to stand being in the world's quietest room for 45 minutes.

(H/T: Popular Science)

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