CBS recently reported that American and Canadian diplomats working in Cuba may have been the victims of an unusual kind of invisible warfare. According to the report, which has been addressed by the U.S. State Department, at least 16 workers mysteriously suffered a variety of symptoms such as hearing loss and nausea, and were eventually diagnosed with serious medical conditions including brain injury and damage to the central nervous system. CBS went on to cite an unnamed source who suggested that the Cuban government may have purposely targeted the diplomats with a sonic weapon.
Also known as an acoustic weapon, a sonic weapon is any type of sophisticated device that uses sound to harm, incapacitate or even kill a target. Although it seems more like spy fiction than reality, sonic weapons have been in development by the U.S. military for some time now.
One of the most well-known types of sonic weapons is the Long Range Missile Device (LRAD). Manufactured by the LRAD Corporation, this weapon emits painfully loud bursts of high-pitched noise. In 2005, security personnel used an LRAD to defend a cruise ship from pirates off the coast of Somalia. The weapon has also been used by various U.S. law enforcement agencies to defuse riots, including the NYPD, Saint Louis Police Department and the New Jersey State Police.
The LRAD was used for the first time in the USA during the G20 summit in 2009:
Other types of sonic weapons – such as the ones that may have been used to target the diplomats in Cuba – are much more difficult to detect. Instead of emitting a loud, irritating noise, these weapons fire bursts of sound waves that humans can’t hear. Infrasound, for example, is low-frequency sound that is below the human range. But even though you can’t hear ultrasound, your body still responds to it. According to acoustic scientists, exposure to infrasound overstimulates certain parts of the ear. Over time, this can cause a variety of unpleasant symptoms including anxiety and nausea, and eventually, can lead to permanent damage.
On the other end of the spectrum is ultrasound: high-frequency sound waves that the human ear also cannot detect. Research shows that ultrasound isn’t as effective as infrasound in terms of acoustic warfare because high-frequency waves dissipate more quickly with distance. That said, in 2005 a Wales inventor came up with the Mosquito, an alarm system that produces a high frequency buzzing noise that only teenagers can hear (because they have more hair cells in their ears than older adults). The Mosquito system is most commonly used by small businesses to deter youths from committing acts of vandalism and whatnot.
Most teenagers can hear 17,000 Hz, but few people in their 20s and over can hear this frequency. This fun video will test how well you hear:
We may never know for sure whether or not the diplomats in Cuba were the victims of a sonic attack, which is why sonic warfare presents a dangerous threat – especially to U.S. officials working in foreign countries. Fortunately, there is a simple safeguard that can significantly protect against weapons of both infrasound and ultrasound.
Sound waves pass more easily through a building’s windows than they do its walls. Therefore, securing a facility’s windows is the best way to protect its occupants from sonic attacks. Thermolite RetroWAL Sound Control Windows are specifically engineered to curb both low and high frequency sound waves. Unlike traditional replacement windows, Thermolite Sound Control Windows install on the interior of a buildings existing windows. This type of interior window retrofit increases the existing window’s insulating properties with double pane low-e glazing, creating an air gap between the panes of glass that traps excess sound and prevents it from reaching the interior of the room. Since the RetroWAL system installs easily on the interior of existing windows, it also seals up any air leakage which may also contribute to noise entering the premises from outdoors.
In 2014, Thermolite contracted with an independent engineering firm to conduct a sound transmission loss report for RetroWAL Sound Control Windows. Sound Transmission Class (STC) ratings measure the sound transmission loss of mid to high frequency noises (such as conversation or television) over a frequency range from 125 to 4000 hertz. Outdoor Indoor Transmission Class (OITC) ratings measure low frequency sounds (such as airplane noise) over a frequency range of 80 to 4000 hertz. The higher the rating, the better the window system is at blocking noise from entering the room.
The report concluded that the sample window system performed at a STC rating of 49 and an OITC of 40. This means that the RetroWAL Sound Control Window System was shown to reduce noise levels by up to 90%. In addition to blocking both low and high frequency sound waves, Thermolite Sound Control Windows further seal building envelopes and reduce annual energy usage by an average of 20%. Contact us today to learn more about the many benefits of Sound Control Windows.