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A variety of nonlethal acoustical weapons have been proposed and evaluated. Some of these are little more than fancy loud-speakers, while others involve more subtle or sophisticated processes and truely deserve the designation of acoustic weapon.
Simple high-intensity sound causes the inner ear to generate nerve impulses that register as sound. Since the inner ear also regulates spatial orientation, saturation of the inner ear by high-intensity sound may cause spatial disorientation. For example, loud music was used by American forces to drive Manual Norriega from the Vatican Embassy in Panama in 1990.
High-intensity low-frequency sound may cause other organs to resonate, causing a number of physiological results, possibly including death. Acoustic weapons pose the hazard of being indiscriminate weapons, potentially imposing the same damage on friendly forces and noncombatants as on enemy combatants or other targets.
A low-frequency sound transducer produces sounds below the audible frequency range [below 20 Hz]. The sound transducer is driven by its own amplifier that uses the output of a low pass filter as its input. Known as infrasound, these vibrations are felt but not heard. The observer needs to be placed on a wooden platform so that the vibrations are transmitted to a suitable area.
The Curdler, a device that emits a high shrieking noise at irregular intervals, was reportedly used by the British as a means of riot control in Northern Ireland. In this case the sound is at levels lower than the pain threshold, and is intended to be annoying rather than inducing disorientation.