Over the years, there have been reports of unexplained, annoying humming noises heard in some areas of the world. Maybe you’ve heard about the Taos Hum in New Mexico, the Kokomo Hum in Indiana, the Bristol Hum in the UK, or the Auckland Hum in New Zealand? Those are only a few of the well-publicized hums. I live in northeast Ohio, just a few miles from the shores of Lake Erie, and about 20 miles from Cleveland. I’ve heard what I think is the same hum for years. No one, not even the scientists, seem to be able to have one explanation for this humming noise. Part of the problem is that not all people can hear it, and I don’t think that the sound can be recorded.
I first started hearing the hum in 1999 or 2000, and it was so loud that it affected my sleep. I could only hear the hum at night, usually after 10 PM, and rarely after 6:00 AM. It never seemed to matter what the weather was like that day, the hum just droned on. It sounded very much like a diesel engine idling in the distance. In fact, that’s what made me think at first that I wasn’t hearing anything unusual, because I live a short ways from train tracks, and it’s not uncommon to hear the trains approach from many miles away. I would think that the pulsing engine sound I heard was an approaching train, and never gave it much thought. But, there were nights the train just never arrived. I would wait, and wait, and…nothing. Just the constant drone of an engine hum, hum, humming for hours on end.
I assumed that since it wasn’t a train that it was something else outside. So I would get up in the middle of the night when the sound was loud, and open a window (even in the dead of winter) and listen to hear if there was something else outside making the noise. The minute I opened up the window, or even stepped outside – nothing. No hum.
After several weeks of this, I concluded that it had to be something in my own house doing it. One morning, we turned off the main power to out house to shut off all the electricity and…I still heard it. It was like the sound was coming right into my head, between my ears, and even into my bones. It was very loud in my basement, and even louder in the stairwell leading to my basement. Even more perplexing is that my husband did not hear it. I think he believed that I was going a little nuts. But, he humored me and knew that I had to be hearing something, since it was affecting my sleep so much. And sometimes the sound itself would change. One night I would get a diesel engine noise, sometimes it would sound like an engine with a hollow sound. Sometimes I would get a sensation that someone unleashed a large tuning fork in my head, with a vibration, a ringing nose, and a sound of hollow, distant traffic.
We thought about things like changes in water pressure. Since we also live close to the city’s water towers, we thought maybe whatever pumps they used to regulate water pressure or water levels in the tower were at fault. We did have a problem about 20 years ago when one of the water towers was out of commission, and they had to pump water into the remaining tower in the late evening hours after demand dropped. During that time, at 10 PM every night, we got the worse case of water hammer you can imagine. Every pipe in the house literally shook so badly that for a few week, we had to turn our water off at 10 PM until sometime in the middle of the night. So if it was another water problem, maybe my neighbors heard it too. I spoke to a few and discovered they heard nothing. I also called my local government city hall, and was basically told there were no complaints. (By the way, since then, they’ve decided to push for sound barriers by the train tracks.)
I have always been prone to migraines, and the nights that the migraines were really bad, the hum was also very bad. Could the hum be coming from my own head, and be a result of the migraines? Or was the hum triggering the migraines? I also had periodic vertigo problems. I had to consider the problem was inside me, maybe even an ear or hearing problem, but after having my ears checked and finding there were no problems, I was stumped. Compounding matters is that my husband said that now HE could hear it – and he wasn’t being prompted by me. What was this noise?
My doctor put me on beta-blockers to help reduce the frequency of migraines. It did seem to help the headaches, but also had another benefit. After a few months on the beta-blocker, I realized that I didn’t hear the hum much any more, or it wasn’t as intense. Eureka! It was me – well, maybe not completely. I had since read that sometimes blood pressure can cause a person to hear the rush of blood in their own head, and sometimes other people around you can even hear this sound. Well, was it me? The answer is probably not completely. Yes, I do think that the beta-blocker, in an attempt to lessen migraines, also evened out my blood pressure (which was never high, by the way) and stopped some of the noise I was hearing. But, I still hear it, and some nights my husband still hears it those same nights that it’s very loud to me. So while I think there may be some component within our own bodies that may affect if we hear the hum or the loudness of the hum, I am not sure it’s just all in our heads, so to speak.
Northeast Ohio has also been seismically active in the last few years, with almost 30 tremors and mild quakes since 2005, all near or in Lake Erie, and most of them very close by to where I live. (I felt quite a few of them.) I had noticed that many times I had hear the hum very loudly for a few days before these quakes. Is there some seismic component to the hum? Infrasound – sounds below the audible sound range that can emanate from earthquakes, volcanoes, avalanches, or atmospheric phenomenon – has been suggested as a cause.
There are also many web sites dedicated to other possible causes of the hum. For example, HAARP, (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program), a government run radio frequency project in Alaska, is often named, but I don’t think there has been any definitive correlation. The proliferation of cell phone towers is another suggested cause. It could be a general industrial hum, as suspected by researchers of the Kokomo Hum. Doctors like to say that it’s tinnitus, and maybe for some people, that is the problem. Some people believe that, as we now have cell phones that have ring tones only teenagers can hear, maybe the hum is a byproduct of the ageing of the ear that can be heard only by people over 40, for example. Could it simply be sounds of the earth and atmospheric events? Could it be insects? Frogs? Fish? Whales? Sonar? Is it a government project to test whether people can be tortured by using sound? You name it, it’s been considered as a cause. Despite all the studies and all the theories, there seems to be no “one size fits all” answer to the hum.
At one point, I spent a lot of time researching the hum and belong to a few forums where people discuss what they believe are the causes, and relate their own experiences. I am sure there could conceivably be millions of people around the world who are hearing this sound. Some suggest it is some sort of mass hysteria. I can tell you that is not the reason in my case. I heard the hum LONG before I had even heard of the Taos Hum or any other hum locations. It wasn’t until one day in 2001, in my frustration, I turned to the Internet to find possible solutions that I realized that I was far from alone.
My opinion is that while the hum is being discussed in forums and probably being researched by individual scientists, I can’t seem to find one major study going on that puts any serious money and time into researching this. If anyone knows of a college, university, or any other research firm looking into this, please let me know. While I do not hear the hum as much as I used to, I still do hear it rarely and know that many people are suffering because of it. What can be done to have scientists take this seriously? Frankly, I am perplexed. There are so many people who are experiencing this world wide that I would have to think that there must be SOMETHING that is causing it and it’s not just in people’s heads. I would be happy to know even if it was simply the sounds of earth, or something like the proliferation of things like telecommunications, satellites, radar, etc. If it’s something that is causing me harm – or not causing me harm – I just want to know.
Hopefully, someone out there who can help will hear me, over the drone of the hum.
Here’s a video which talks about the Auckland Hum
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