A group of American diplomats in Havana, Cuba have suffered severe and unexplained hearing loss over the past year, which U.S. officials believe was caused by a covert and advanced sonic device.
The severity of some of the diplomats’ symptoms has forced them to cancel their Cuba tours early and return to the U.S. for treatment, the Associated Press reports.
But what exactly is a sonic device, how common are they, and how much damage can they actually cause? Here’s what to know.
What weapons was used to hurt diplomats in Cuba?
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the government does not “have any definitive answers about the source” of the attack. It is continuing to investigate what may have caused the diplomats’ injuries.
However, U.S. officials who spoke anonymously to the AP said that the hearing loss was caused by a device deployed either inside or near the diplomats’ residences. The devices emitted a sound that was not audible to human ears, they added. That would indicate it was most likely an infrasonic or ultrasonic weapon.
The Canadian government said Thursday that at least one Canadian diplomat in Cuba also has been treated for hearing loss following disclosures that a group of American diplomats in Havana suffered severe hearing loss that U.S. officials believe was caused by an advanced sonic device.
Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman Brianne Maxwell said Canadian officials “are aware of unusual symptoms affecting Canadian and US diplomatic personnel and their families in Havana. The government is actively working — including with U.S. and Cuban authorities – to ascertain the cause.”
Basically, these diplomats came under acoustic attack in the form of a dog-whistle-style sound, unheard by humans. The sound-making devices were placed either inside or just outside the embassy employees’ homes.