First used to sniff out submarines, technology expands biomedical acoustic uses

For More Information:
Keeta Jones


WASHINGTON, April 20, 2020 — Ultrasound is probably most associated with a parent’s first glimpse of a baby in the womb. However, a new video from the Acoustical Society of America showcases the technology’s abilities to do more than just show images of our insides.


This video is the second in a series celebrating the International Year of Sound.

Research into the medical uses of ultrasound uncovered its ability to be used as a precision scalpel, to destroy tumor and cancer cells, and to treat brain diseases and numerous other conditions. Biomedical acoustic scientists are using ultrasound to deliver medicine to specific areas in the body, increasing the effectiveness of the drugs and reducing the impact on healthy cells.


Because it is noninvasive in most cases, patients who undergo medical procedures that use ultrasound can recover more quickly from those procedures. Ultrasound is also used during surgical procedures to inform medical personnel about what is happening inside the body.

High Intensity Focused Ultrasound therapies are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of uterine fibroids and essential tremors, to alleviate pain from bone metastases, and for the ablation of prostate tissue. Numerous clinical trials are underway with the goal expanding the number of approved treatments.

According to the National Institutes of Health, ultrasound is also being investigated to close wounds and stop bleeding, break up clots in blood vessels, and temporarily open the blood brain barrier so that medications can pass through.

Fun Facts About Ultrasound

  • First technological use in 1917 as an attempt to locate submarines
  • Accidentally killed fish during World War II when high intensity waves were used as sonar systems
  • Used for medical purposes since the 1940s
  • Clinical use requires sound waves between 800 kHz and 10 MHz (800,000 Hz to 10,000,000 Hz)
  • Ultrasound imaging is amongst the cheapest and most portable approach to medical imaging
  • Gel applied to the skin prevents air pockets from forming between the transducer and the skin
  • Diagnostic ultrasound images can be 2D, 3D or 3D in motion
  • Therapeutic ultrasound is being developed not just for treating humans but also for treating animals

To learn more about ultrasound and the field of biomedical acoustics, visit

About Acoustical Society of America

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) is the premier international scientific society in acoustics devoted to the science and technology of sound. Its 7,000 members worldwide represent a broad spectrum of the study of acoustics. ASA publications include The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (the world’s leading journal on acoustics), Acoustics Today magazine, books, and standards on acoustics. The society also holds two major scientific meetings each year.

Past Press Releases

Offshore Wind Farms Could Disturb Marine Mammal Behavior

As the number and size of offshore turbines increase, so does the possible disruption to aquatic life.Media Contact:Larry FrumAIP DENVER, May 26, 2022 – When an offshore wind farm pops up, there is a period of noisy but well-studied and...

Explosions Help Probe Elusive Atmospheric Waves

Infrasound pulses from munitions plant explosions used to study gravity waves, atmospheric eventsMedia Contact: Larry Frum AIP Media 301-209-3090 DENVER, May 25, 2022 – Infrasound waves can probe some of the most complex weather patterns hidden to normal...

Snap, Crackle, Pop: Healthy Coral Reefs Brimming with Noise

Monitoring their soundscape can provide a long term, nonintrusive, inexpensive method for tracking the state of reefs around the worldMedia Contact:Larry FrumAIP DENVER, May 25, 2022 – A healthy coral reef is loud. Like a busy city, the...

Turning Hearing Aids into Noise-Canceling Devices

Assistive listening devices can filter out noise from loudspeakers, improving clarityMedia Contact: Larry Frum AIP Media 301-209-3090 DENVER, May 25, 2022 – People with hearing aids and other assistive listening devices often struggle at crowded events,...

On Mars, NASA’s Perseverance Rover’s Playlist Like No Other

Microphones on the rover capture, characterize sounds from red planet's atmosphereMedia Contact: Larry Frum AIP Media 301-209-3090 DENVER, May 25, 2022 – Since NASA's Perseverance rover landed on Mars, its two microphones have recorded hours of audio...

Going Virtual Hurts Student Career Prospects

Students less likely to engage with virtual networking events, increasing turnover, burnoutMedia Contact:Larry FrumAIP DENVER, May 24, 2022 – As in-person scientific meetings and gathering have been replaced by virtual meetings during...

Ultrasound-Assisted Laser Technique Vaporizes Artery Plaque

Method avoids complications from using high-power lasers, extends to other medical applicationsMedia Contact:Larry FrumAIP DENVER, May 24, 2022 – Atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque, can lead to heart disease, artery disease, and...

Listening Can Be Exhausting for Older Cochlear Implant Users

Aging effects on listening effort in cochlear-implant usersMedia Contact:Larry FrumAIP DENVER, May 24, 2022 – Degraded acoustic signals can make hearing difficult for anyone, but differences in cognitive abilities, age-related changes,...

Diverse Social Networks Reduce Accent Judgments

Perception in context: How racialized identities impact speech perceptionMedia Contact:Larry FrumAIP DENVER, May 24, 2022 – Everyone has an accent. But the intelligibility of speech doesn't just depend on that accent; it also depends on...

Sidekick Microbubbles Carry Anti-Cancer Drugs, Damage Tumor Vessels

Ultrasound-stimulated, drug-loaded bubbles for cancer therapyMedia Contact:Larry FrumAIP DENVER, May 24, 2022 – Microbubbles can assist with localized drug delivery in a patient's body by popping at a target site to create enhanced...

Share This