Sitting in silence with one’s thoughts can be an unsettling feeling, especially if there are no distractions to divert the attention.
Guinness World Records acknowledged the anechoic (without echo) chamber at the Microsoft headquarters located in Redmond, Washington, as the quietest place on the planet. It took roughly two years for the Microsoft team to design.
Sound tests revealed an average background noise reading of -20.35 dBA (decibel A assesses for the relative loudness of sounds felt by the human ear). To put this into perspective, a library study area will track approximately 40 decibels and this room falls way below zero.
Most people walk into the room and do a rapid U-turn; people rarely last more than an hour in that space. Any extended period of time within those walls feels like punishment.
The purpose of this room is to eliminate the outside noise and tune into one’s own body. You can hear yourself think — perhaps a bit more than some people are willing to tolerate. The sound of a heartbeat can easily be heard with no background noise drowning it out.
The silence becomes excruciating as people stumble struggling to maintain their balance due to the impairments with spatial awareness.
Hundraj Gopal, the principal designer of the chamber at Microsoft, said: “When you turn your head, you can even hear that motion. You can hear yourself breathing and it sounds somewhat loud.”
This area is isolated from the rest of the building and it contains six layers of concrete and steel. Vibration-damping springs are built on the base with fiberglass wedges surrounding the area to break up sound waves.
Although people can marvel at the structural design, it’s not a desirable place to linger for a lengthy period of time. Even a monk who spends hours in meditation would probably dart for the nearest exit.