Of Silent Sirens and Pied Pipers: Auditory Thresholds and High-Frequency Technologies of Animal Control

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


Animal hearing has long served as a model for understanding human hearing. Yet conversely, animal hearing can only be imagined through human hearing. This chapter shows how, building on techniques for testing human hearing, experimental psychologists in the 1930s and 1940s turned to determining the absolute (upper) frequencies of hearing for various other mammal subjects. Showing the domains of animal auditory perception to be overlapping but rarely congruous with that of humans, these measurements began to lead lives of their own in the subsequent decades. Propelled by various scientific, military, and commercial interests, fascination with the ultrasonic stirred imaginaries of sonic control. The threshold of hearing, this chapter argues, is also a threshold to the imagination, as expressed in the simultaneous success and failure of mundane technologies such as the “Ultrasonic Pied Piper” or the “Bird-E-Vict.”
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTesting Hearing
Subtitle of host publicationThe Making of Modern Aurality
EditorsViktoria Tkaczyk, Mara Mills, Alexandra Hui
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)0197511155, 9780197511152, 9780197511138, 9780197511121
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

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