Finding absolute silence, or something close to it, can be a challenge in our noisy world. With the constant hum of traffic, machinery, electronics, and people talking, true quiet can feel elusive. However, there are some places on Earth that are naturally much more hushed than others. These ultra-quiet spots provide rare opportunities to experience profound stillness and peace. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most silent places on the planet and what makes them so quiet.
Orfield Laboratories’ anechoic chamber
One of the quietest places ever created is an anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboratories in South Minneapolis, Minnesota. An anechoic chamber is a room designed to completely absorb sound reflections. The Orfield Labs chamber, which holds the Guinness World Record for “quietest place,” absorbs 99.99% of sound and hits -9.4 dBA on the decibel scale. That’s just a tiny fraction louder than the threshold of human hearing, around 0 dBA.
To achieve such extreme quiet, the walls, ceiling and floor of the chamber are covered with 3.3-foot thick fiberglass acoustic wedges. There is also an insulated, double steel door and several layers of insulated steel and concrete around the room. Inside, you experience almost total silence, to the point where you can hear your own heartbeat, digestion, and muscles moving. The lack of external noise makes your body sounds feel deafening. Many can’t tolerate more than 30 minutes in the chamber before feeling disoriented.
Professional sound recording studios are specially constructed to block out external noise that could interfere with production. Materials like concrete, bricks, sand, and steel are used to make studio walls very thick and dense. Most studios also use extensive acoustic paneling to dampen any interior reverberations. Studios meant for recording quiet sounds like vocals and fragile instruments may even float on vibration-dampening mounts.
For example, Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in England has recording rooms nested inside layers of stone, iron and concrete over 65 feet thick. Its quietest studio measures only 10 dBA. Other famously hushed studios include La Fabrique in France (-14 dBA) and Sugarcube in Finland (-15 dBA). Engineers in these spaces can capture pristine audio in near-perfect silence.
Some of the quietest naturally-occurring places are in remote wilderness far from human habitats. Deep inside forests, deserts, and tundra lacking roads, planes, and industrial activity, the base level of noise can be extremely low. For example, the Haleakalā wilderness of Maui measures only 10 dBA during the night. In the Negev desert of Israel, parts are as quiet as -24 dBA in some desert plains. However, finding an area devoid of wind, running water, wildlife, or other natural sounds is difficult.
One notable super-silent wild location is the snowy forest area of One Square Inch of Silence in Olympic National Park, Washington. Set aside in 2005 by acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton, it measures around 20-30 dBA during calm conditions. Moving just a few feet away causes the noise to double. Other exceptionally quiet wildernesses recommended by Hempton are the Peloncillo Mountains Wilderness of Arizona and the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas.
Under the sea, the natural background noise level is also very low. In the deepest parts of the oceans, away from wave turbulence, currents, marine life, and human activity, the only sounds are rare natural events like earthquakes, ice calving, and underwater volcanoes.
NOAA scientists measured one of the quietest underwater spots in the eastern South Pacific Ocean near Necker Island. At depths around 3,700 feet, ambient noise reaches astonishing lows of roughly 15 dBA. Similarly, underwater audio recordings made by Japan’s National Research Institute of Fisheries Science in the northwest Pacific Ocean captured ambient noise as low as 10 dBA.
The structures of caves tend to create very quiet interiors by blocking external noises. Sounds from the surface have difficulty penetrating the rock. Cave systems with twisting layouts or multiple chambers and tunnels isolate internal spaces even further.
In the UK, Murray Hall Cave in the Yorkshire Dales has been measured down to -12 dBA when isolated from wind and water noises. Siegel Cave in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park reaches around 20 dBA deep inside. Other notably silent caves are in Poland’s Nietoperek Reserve (-30 dBA) and the Sarma Cave system in Romania (-31 dBA). The lack of echoes and sound reflections in these caves creates a spooky, ultra-quiet atmosphere.
Anechoic and soundproof rooms
For scientific research purposes, some laboratories have rooms designed to block out external noises. These are often used for testing audio equipment and studying acoustics. Like the Orfield Labs chamber, they use foam wedges or fiberglass panels on the walls to absorb sound reflections.
At Microsoft’s anechoic chambers, ambient noise can reach as low as 20 dBA. An acoustic lab at Yale University’s peabody Museum also uses a room insulated with fiberglass at 20 dBA. At Bell Labs in New Jersey, a compact anechoic room for telephony research hits -15 dBA. These controlled indoor environments allow researchers to work in artificial near-silence.
While no place on Earth is completely silent, some locations come astonishingly close by blocking out nearly all ambient noise. Purpose-built anechoic chambers set the gold standard for ultra-quiet spaces. But remote wilderness areas, secluded caves, underwater spots, and custom acoustic labs also achieve stunningly silent conditions. Seeking out these rare natural and constructed quiet zones can be a powerful way to experience the profound beauty of near-total silence.