AUSTIN (KXAN) — Can you imagine being in complete silence, so quiet you can hear your heart beat or your ears ringing?
The University of Texas at Austin has a room where complete silence is possible.
“It is really as if you are in free space,” said Mike Haberman, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UT. “Imagine you are floating out in the air, and there is no background music at all.”
The room is called an anechoic chamber, and it’s filled with foam padding to stop reverberation and echo.
Haberman and his students use the room to measure sound and collect data on devices in a controlled environment.
“So we have a loud speaker up above,” Haberman said, pointing out how they use certain tools to measure data. “We can send the sound downward, then we have this microphone here which we can move around. That measures the incident sound and reflective sound.”
The research can be applied to a number of fields and a number of products, from microphones and hearing aids to materials in buildings.
“Things that you would put in restaurants to minimize the sound levels to make it a better more comfortable experience,” Haberman said.
Sam Parker, a graduate research assistant at UT, uses the chamber and says it’s perfect for what he’s working on.
“It is really a great way to test how sound interacts with different structures because you can get rid of any kind of effects that come from reflection of sounds from the structure you’re testing in,” he said.
We use sound to distinguish how far away something might be, but in the room your spatial awareness is off because there is no echo.
“The noise level goes way down and you can hear your ears ringing,” Haberman said.
For some it might be peaceful inside the room, but for others not so much.
“Some people don’t like it because it is very odd, very unnatural,” Haberman said.