Sonic has a dating problem
With no access to the diplomats, the Cubans conducted audiometric tests on diplomats’ neighbors and domestic workers in the diplomats’ homes, who might also have been exposed to harmful acoustic waves.
Three of 20 people tested had abnormalities in the eardrum, inner ear, and cochlea, but all had preexisting hearing deficits.
The State Department has taken pains not to blame Cuba for the alleged attacks. diplomats first reported symptoms that could not be easily explained in November 2016. A few diplomats reportedly showed signs of brain trauma.
But it has accused the Cuban government of failing to protect U. diplomats, and in September it evacuated family members and non-emergency personnel. “We have never seen this anyplace in the world before,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert in Washington, D. “When I first heard about the attacks, it sounded like an episode,” says Manuel Jorge Villar Kuscevic, an ear, nose, and throat specialist at Enrique Cabrera Hospital here. officials would not share detailed medical data, explaining that they wanted to protect diplomats’ privacy.
In medical procedures, ultrasound is used to destroy brain tumors, but it attenuates rapidly with distance. “The combination of sudden onset of hearing loss, tinnitus, headaches, vertigo, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, and memory problems would have to be related to multiple lesions in both brain hemispheres,” says neurologist Alberto Espay of the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, who has read the Cuban report. officials questioned whether aerial fumigation to kill mosquitoes could be the culprit.
The Cubans also concluded that the reported symptoms imply more serious brain injuries than anyone is alleging—and some U. Based on what little the State Department has revealed, he says, that “wasn’t the case here.” The Cuban panel evaluated other possible causes of the symptoms. The insecticide of choice in Cuba is permethrin, which in acute doses can cause nausea, headaches, and shortness of breath.
S.] claims,” says panel member Antonio Paz Cordovéz, president of the Cuban Society of Otorhinolaryngology here.
At present, the spokesperson said, “We do not have definitive answers on the source or cause of the attacks.” The baffling episode has added to the growing ill will between the two countries, which has chilled scientific cooperation. diplomats and, reportedly, five Canadian families said they had been harmed at their residences or at two hotels here.For instance, a high-frequency noise that some had identified as a possible “sonic weapon” may have been crickets chirping.The State Department declined to comment on the Cuban findings.A search for environmental sounds near the sites of the alleged attacks could not identify any loud enough to inflict hearing loss. officials did provide sound recordings—possibly made by diplomats or family members in and around their homes—to the Cuban team.“To harm someone from outside a room, a sonic weapon would have to emit a sound above 130 decibels,” says Kuscevic, who equates that to the roar of four jet engines on the street outside a house. For comparison, Carlos Barcelo Pérez, an environmental physicist at the National Institute of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Microbiology here, recorded evening sounds around the residences. Pérez found that the Jamaican field cricket ( Reports that some diplomats suffered brain trauma also undermine the acoustic attack hypothesis.
Around the time the first diplomats here fell ill, the U. “That kind of situation leads you to feel threatened,” says panelist Dionisio Zaldívar Pérez, a psychologist at Havana University. In the “very closed community of English-speaking diplomats who have few connections with the Cuban population,” Valdés-Sosa adds, stress could quickly escalate. Valdés-Sosa, a neurophysiologist, emphasizes that the panel’s findings are provisional.