Tracing the ‘Hum’

By Leonardo Vintini
Leonardo Vintini
Leonardo Vintini
June 19, 2008 Updated: September 29, 2015

“I hear frequencies. I hear the sound of the constant force of energy of electrostatic discharges. I hear other sounds within those sounds. The pitches and the tones change, but the essence of the sounds I am forced to endure 24/7 is pretty well defined and…becomes more refined,” says Demetria Hardin of San Joaquin Valley, California.

“The frequencies seem to affect my body in that they seem to have the ability to induce my heart to race, which helps induce other effects to my body,” she continues. “Depending on the pitch level, my body can be induced into chronic insomnia- type symptoms or induced into chronic fatigue-type symptoms. Both seem to have some ability to deprive me of sound sleep. I never feel like I get enough sleep. Never. My instinct tells me it has to do with these frequencies I am hearing.” This description is an example of what thousands of people day after day (and night after night) seem forced to endure, living in the shadow of a little-known annoyance known as “the Hum.”

“A diesel motor heard in the distance” is one of the definitions that a significant number of so-called Hum sufferers describe. It is often referred to as the “Taos Hum,” as reports from many who suffer this constant sound come from this New Mexico city. It is a continuous and monotonous sound, with a dull and low frequency that seems to accost inhabitants all over the planet.

An increasing number of reports of this Hum phenomenon began in the early 1990s, when local media told of a wave of Taos Hum sufferers. Yet, even in the ’70s and ’80s Hum hearers from New Zealand to the U.K. told of an incessant sound. Still others say that, for them, this sound began as early as the 1960s.

“I have suffered with the Hum for the past 15 years but this is nothing unusual; this problem has been causing trouble for at least 40 years,” says John Dawes in an e-mail interview. Dawes’s website is dedicated to Hum sufferers around the world, letting them know that they are not alone.

Local Hum hearers refer to the sound specific to their city—called the “Bristol Hum” or the “Kokomo Hum,” for example. However, instead of the Hum being a phenomenon isolated to a few key spots as some have believed, Dawes argues that the Hum is global but for some reason only disturbs the peace of certain individuals, at certain hours of the day. According to Dawes, 1–2 percent of the world’s population suffers from this mystery noise.

Identifying the Cause

“Couldn’t this simply be auditory hallucinations or tinnitus?” ask some individuals who try to understand a phenomenon they don’t experience. This is doubtful since in many cases more than one member of a household can hear the noise.
While many investigations have attempted to identify or offer a suitable explanation for the enigmatic origin of the Hum, there is not yet one that satisfies all. However, the consequences for sufferers are clear: The interference of the “diesel motor” in their heads varies from a simple bother to a genuine torture that prevents normal tasks.

When does the Hum strike? The range of Hum-hearing seems to vary for each person. Some of the affected hear it during the day, others hear it only at specific times, and another group reports that the Hum can come and go with no pattern. Yet the majority of all Hum sufferers find that the “sound” is the biggest bother during the night, making sleep extremely difficult.

Explanations for the strange Hum phenomenon found in regions such as Kokomo, Indiana, have been attributed to factors of an industrial origin. For instance, refrigeration towers at the city’s port, or the large air compressors capable of generating high-decibel, low frequency noise, might be transmitting sound subtly through the earth, assaulting residential buildings

In other areas, Hum hypotheses refer to natural factors of the earth, such as the movement of tectonic plates, electromagnetism caused by meteorites, and electromagnetic waves produced by the interaction of the planet’s magnetic field with solar flares.

Even so, the origins of the Hum are impossible to detect without the most sensitive microphones, representing a true enigma for scientists and a range of possibilities for investigators.

In November 2006, Dr. Tom Moir, an engineering professor at Massey University’s Institute of Information and Mathematical Sciences in New Zealand made a recording of the Hum. Using high-sensitivity, digital recording equipment, Dr. Moir, and his colleague, Dr Fakhrul Alam, captured the bothersome tone at a student’s home—herself a Hum sufferer.

When news of this recording was reported, people all over the north side of Auckland confirmed that they too were haunted by the same monotonous sound. Like in Taos and other locations, the response was so significant that the mysterious noise was quickly dubbed the “Auckland Hum.”

“Wherever there is a high-voltage grid system, you can expect to find Hum sufferers,” says Dawes describing his own theory. “The simple fact is that through our use of electricity we are changing the environment of the planet, which makes people ill—and not only those who hear the noise. We may not like it but it is happening, and as more countries join the race to become advanced, the situation can only get worse. This is a problem that cannot be solved by individuals; it is a problem that can only be addressed by government.” Dawes even suggests that while the Hum is disruptive to many, it has even been responsible for a few deaths.

One of the original candidates for a possible explanation of the Hum was military submarine communications, such as ELF (Extremely Low Frequency). ELF consists of a range of frequencies that are capable of crossing land and sea in any direction.

Another explanation is high-frequency ionospheric systems erected across the United States, Russia, or Norway, such as HAARP (High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program), which was first developed in Alaska in 1993. While many have reported hearing the Hum long before the construction of the HAARP project, perhaps its input within the cacophony of frequencies that have entered our world in the past few decades is just another piece in a complex aural puzzle—a puzzle that has produced an unintentional result affecting more all the time.

“There are millions of Hum sufferers around the world, and if they want this problem solved they will need to stand up and be counted. The only way forward is through their elected representatives,” says Dawes. “Unfortunately, Joe public is under the impression that if a subject gets an airing by the media then ‘something will be done’ but it never is; as far as the media is concerned it is just one more story.”

Finding Relief

For Hum sufferers, this constant companion can make life miserable. Yet seemingly obvious solutions such as earplugs can even make the sound worse. “It must be clearly understood that the Hum is NOT a noise in the normal sense of the word; it is a perceived sound generated inside the head of the sufferer,” observes Dawes on his Web site. “Only a small percentage of people can actually ‘hear’ the Hum but the cause undoubtedly affects the population at large. Most sufferers start to hear the Hum at about the age of 50 with a two thirds majority of women.”

To add further mystery to the origin of the Hum, sufferers frequently report that certain locations in their towns, or in their homes, seem to project the sound more acutely—inside certain buildings, in the open air, or in distant rooms of the same house. Hum sufferers must frequently choose the least affected place in their home to catch a few precious hours of sleep.

“Buildings and the ground they stand on greatly effect the Hum level. Buildings with thick stone walls and a high, pointed roof are the worst; those with a flat roof are much better. The basement of a multistory block is better than an isolated country cottage. Buildings on a low level and clay are better than those on hills and bedrock,” explains Dawes who also provides helpful dietary advice to fellow Hum sufferers, desperate to escape the constant drone.

“It helps to spend as much time as possible outdoors, and if practical, to sleep outdoors,” says Dawes.

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