There is alot of rather contradictory information present on the biological effects of acoustic weapons with a bevy of scientific articles claiming that they cause harm to biological organisms with effects such as nausia, gagging, and disorientation. These articles are mostly from older scientific articles and modern government scientific reports on the issue, and statements by military leaders overseeing the development of the weapons (including defence contractors). Contradictory claims are also being made by a multitude of scientific sources from a variety of different countries and backgrounds.

I am not sure which one is correct after reading about a dozen articles from both sides. Does anyone have any insight on this issue?

Of note, there are a multitude of crackpots and conspiracy theorists that believe that the acoustic weapons are real and can do outworldly things- the media seems to have bought into these speculations thouroughly and should probably not be trusted.

Here are two articles (one claiming they work and the other denying it especially pertaining to infrasound):

Bioeffects of Selected Nonlethal Weapons

Acoustic Weapons - A Prospective Assessment

  • $\begingroup$ technically a concussion grenade or even the bang part of a "flashbang" is an acoustic weapon. $\endgroup$ – John Nov 17 '17 at 0:55

There are a few things which can lead to miscommunication regarding the potency of acoustic weapons, but there are two main things to consider: source levels and duration.

Most organisms can tolerate loud sounds, within reason, for a short period of time. However, no matter how short, at certain levels acoustic weapons can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss, nausia, gagging, and disorientation. Weapons with a lower source level played over a longer duration will be easier for organisms to initially ignore, but exposure to weaponized source levels over time will lead to internal issues with health, including a decrease in fecundity and nutrient digestion.

Often military and sometimes scientific reports will focus on one particular type of weapon used for a specific purpose, and deem its use acceptable or not. Many scientific studies take more factors or variations into consideration.

Ultimately, its risky because we don't have enough data about the long-term effects acoustic weapons can have on a population, and they also don't appear to be particularly effective when it comes to humans. The Acoustic Weapons (chapter 7) in 'Non-Lethal' Weapons1 by Neil Davison sums it up nicely.


1: Davison, N. (2009). 'Non-Lethal' Weapons. Springer.

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Biology.SE! This looks like a good answer and it's great that you've provided a supporting reference. However, please include the complete reference information since links can (and do) break β€” for example journals may periodically reorganize their websites. One easy way to get that information is to search for the paper on Google Scholar and click on the β€Ÿ symbol to get reference information. This is a good example of how to format references. Thanks! 😊 $\endgroup$ – tyersome Aug 28 '20 at 0:08
  • $\begingroup$ Got it! Please see edit. I hope that clear things up. $\endgroup$ – etgriffiths Aug 28 '20 at 10:04
  • $\begingroup$ Yes that was better. (+1) I took the liberty of including the complete reference information since having the publisher can be helpful, but mostly to satisfy my OCD tendencies. $\endgroup$ – tyersome Aug 29 '20 at 0:11
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks! I see the difference now. $\endgroup$ – etgriffiths Sep 1 '20 at 7:44

Your Answer

By clicking β€œPost Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.