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10 Unbelievable Sound Facts with a Ring of Truth

by Gregory Myers
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

The internet is full of “facts” that will just plain blow your mind, and with the rise of social media, we have them at our fingertips more and more. However, often, with things like TikTok or Vine, we only get a tiny glimpse, and the healthy skeptic in us wonders just how much of what we are reading is actually true.

This skepticism is healthy, and more often than not we are here to tell you which alleged facts you’ve been reading are not what they appear. In this case, however, we are happy to bring you ten wild-sounding facts about sound that actually ring true.

Related: 10 Facts About Body Hair That Will Make You Sick

10 Infrasound Hallucinations and Ghostly Experiences

The FEAR Frequency: Infrasound

Even some of the most logical of us have a story where we experienced something we cannot explain. This sort of experience has different effects on different people. Some believe that it is a religious experience, and others believe in a more commonplace sort of ghost. However, there are also those skeptics who, even after a ghostly apparition, will go out of their way to find a scientific explanation to prove away what happened to them.

These skeptics may sound like they are just trying to help themselves sleep better at night, but there is some scientific backing to their claims. They will argue that the fight or flight response, anxiety, chills, and hallucinations can all be induced by infrasound around 19hz.

Of course, this does not prove that all ghostly experiences are due to infrasound. Still, research has proven that at least some hauntings are scientific. Vic Tandy was a professor at Coventry University in the United Kingdom who tested many haunted sights in his community and proved they had pockets of infrasound.[1]

9 Your Brain Doesn’t Like Silence

Can Silence Actually Drive You Crazy?

There are many different ways that people react to sound. Some people cannot stand their neighbors being loud, and others just turn up their own volume. Some cannot go to sleep without something on, while others will constantly decry any loss of their “peace and quiet.” However, no matter what your preference, you will usually find that if all ambient sound disappears, it makes you rather uncomfortable.

This is because even when you think it is dead silence, there are still ambient noises that you never even notice or think about. Without the background hum of your house and all the other feedback you are used to, your brain gets confused and thinks something is wrong. Never is this effect more apparent than at Orfield laboratories in Minnesota, which houses an anechoic chamber designed to muffle all sound.

Many people hear, or at least claim to hear, their own internal organs working, and sound hallucinations are common due to people’s brains trying to fill in the blanks. No one has yet lasted more than fifteen minutes in this hellish torture chamber due to the extreme discomfort of having literally all sound removed.[2]

8 Headphone Volume Does Matter

You’re probably damaging your ears. Stop!

It is fairly common for adults to warn their kids that they should turn down the volume or they will damage their hearing. Most kids don’t take the warnings very seriously, as most young people imagine that if a product is commonly sold on the market, it is going to have volume levels that are safe to use. Unfortunately, that assumption is incorrect, and hearing loss due to headphones and earbuds is becoming an increasing problem.

While it can also affect adults, it is especially common in children and teens and is leading to a rise in hearing loss in pediatric patients. This epidemic actually has a few pretty easy solutions: The most important one is to turn the volume down in general and also to decide on a maximum volume. Noise-canceling headphones also help, and higher quality products are better, but at the end of the day, there is no substitute for just giving your poor ears a break. [3]

7 Castration and the Boys Choir

Castrati – The Sad Story of the Boys who were Castrated to Become Singers

For those who have not heard of them, the castrati were young boys who were castrated in order to ensure that they kept their high feminine singing voices. This was in order to keep women out of the choir while still having a full ensemble of singers. Today, this sounds barbaric and insane, but the gender divide was such a big deal that they felt they didn’t have another way to get the voices they needed.

The practice evolved from the old Greek and Roman tradition of using eunuch slaves, and by the time of the Byzantine Empire, it had become a way to create natural male sopranos. Today, we do not think it is a bad thing to have women in a church choir, and we also think that castrating juveniles is an insane and immoral thing to do. We would also like to imagine that something like this was banned a long time ago. However, the last castrato, Alessandro Moreschi, died in 1924 and actually recorded himself on gramophone before he died.[4]

6 Prisoners Tortured with… Pop Music

Top 5 Songs Used To Torture Prisoners | CIA TORTURE Mix Tape!

During the early days of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the United States was under fire for their treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and in Afghanistan and Iraq as well. While many of the tortures were the general run-of-the-mill tortures you would already expect, some really strange ones slipped in. In particular, the CIA used bad American pop music in order to torture detainees.

Popular among the torture music were tunes by Britney Spears, Metallica, and Sesame Street. This may not sound that bad compared to some types of torture, but the experts say that the entire reason it is used is because it can actually be more effective than physical torture. Music can cause humiliation, sensory overload, and moral discomfort if it is against their religion.

This was particularly effective with many prisoners because their religion made the music they were being forced to listen to sinful for them. If that still doesn’t sound that bad, just recall the last time a young relative subjected you to several repeat renditions of “Let It Go.”[5]

5 A Tiny Insect with an Insanely Loud Defense Mechanism

How loud is YOUR penis?! The waterboatman and his mighty member!

This insect has a rather strange name that doesn’t really describe its most amazing feature at all. It is simply known as the lesser water boatman, but there is nothing lesser about the sound that this critter can make. The small water-dwelling insect developed its loud sound in order to scare away potential predators, as it doesn’t have much else in the way of defense.

Just how loud does this insect get? According to researchers who managed to get close enough without losing their hearing, it can make a sound of up to 99 decibels. This is about as loud as a newspaper printing press, an automatic belt sander, or a small woodworking shop—all this from an insect smaller than a pea.

This sound ability is so insane that it is the loudest creature on earth by comparative mass—similar to how a flea can jump higher than any other creature by comparative size. Where it gets even crazier, however, is how the insect makes this insanely loud noise. In order to make a noise that would rival a shop class, the lesser water boatman takes his penis and rubs the ridge on his penis against a ridge on his abdomen.[6]

4 Where Are the Screams Coming From?

Terrifying Fox Screams At Night

There are all kinds of scary stories that people tell in the dark. It is a favorite pastime of humans to see if we can frighten each other, or even ourselves, and by doing so, help confront our fears. Many of these fears are primal, and the most timeless ones often involve the darkest parts of the woods and the things that lurk within them. Many mythological tales tell of someone who heard what sounded like a woman screaming or a child shrieking in agony in the woods and went to investigate, only to never return.

Fortunately for those who want to sleep tonight, it turns out that mainly during mating season, female foxes make a shrieking cry that sounds a lot like a young child or woman being brutally, horrifically tortured. Even in our modern age, people are still being fooled by these horrible calls. Just a few years back in Howard County, Maryland, the authorities had to assure people that the screams they heard in the woods were not supernatural monsters or tortured children but sneaky little foxes during mating season.[7]

3 Plants Grow to Classical Music

How Does Music Affect Plants?

For many of us, talking to plants or trees may seem a bit silly, and playing music to them especially so. The elves in The Lord of the Rings woke the trees up and taught them to talk, but that is fantasy. The majority of people are likely to argue that plants are not at all aware of anything and that talking to them and especially playing music to them is just nuts. However, before you dismiss the idea, it turns out that two-thirds of gardeners are convinced that playing music to their plants is actually doing something useful.

Some might start questioning their collective sanity, but the truth is that science actually backs them up. The Mythbusters, as well as other, more official researchers, have tested out the claims and found that the plant music people are on the right track. The researchers found out that the stomata of plants actually stay open longer when classical music is played. This is important because the stomata, found in essentially all plants on earth, are vital for it to take in CO2 and release oxygen.[8]

2 A Voice to Break Glass

Breaking a Glass With SOUND In Slow Motion | Earth Science

We have pretty much all seen the trope, and it is usually a sequence in a cartoon or a comedy movie. The buxom female opera singer keeps singing in a higher and higher voice until, out of nowhere, the glass she is holding shatters in her hand. In some comedies, the glass of someone else will shatter, or several whole windows will go down as collateral damage. Most people think of this as amusing but dismiss the idea as pure fiction. And why wouldn’t we? The idea of using your voice to break glass sounds absurd on its face and shatters our illusion of a secure world.

Unfortunately, for those who want to believe that it is impossible for a friend to accidentally or purposely sing your wineglass to destruction while you hold it, the truth is that it is indeed quite possible. The Mythbusters, as well as others, have experimented with it over the years and proven that with the right volume and resonant frequency, you can indeed shatter a wine glass without an amplified voice.

However, the fewer microscopic defects your wine glass has, the harder it is going to be to sing it to destruction, and trying to break much of anything more than that with your voice is going to require amplification.[9]

1 Loudest Sound on Earth

The Krakatoa Volcanic Eruption of 1883 – The Loudest Sound Ever Heard?

In 1883, Krakatoa, a massive volcano, erupted in the Indonesian Archipelago. The blast was so loud that it was heard 1,930 miles (3,110 kilometers) away in Perth, Australia, and 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) away in Rodrigues, an island off the coast of the East African nation of Mauritius. To put this in perspective, the sound was so loud that if it had happened in New York, you could have heard it from Mt. St. Helens in Washington State.

The sound was estimated at 182 decibels but was measured at 172 decibels 100 miles (161 kilometers) from the sight of the eruption. While there are no recordings of the eruption, as recording devices were only just coming into existence, we do have some idea from those who heard it. The witnesses said that it sounded like the distant roar of heavy guns.

Fortunately, with the telegraph just becoming a common part of life, people were able to confirm that no wars were starting. However, that didn’t mean people were out of the woods. The sound wave, believed to be the loudest sound ever, circled the world four times—causing tsunamis all the way to South Africa—choked the sky with fumes, and caused worldwide famines.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen