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"The Hum" - This strange eerie sound heard all over the world - what causes it ?

Updated on August 20, 2017
Peter Geekie profile image

A retired pharmaceutical and industrial chemist, author and historian specialising in military events.

The Hum - heard all over the world
The Hum - heard all over the world
Deep space radio waves
Deep space radio waves
Wind turbines cases low frequency sound waves
Wind turbines cases low frequency sound waves
Wind turbine noise graph
Wind turbine noise graph
Abandoned coal mine
Abandoned coal mine
Large waves creating Earth vibration.
Large waves creating Earth vibration.
Tortured souls in hell
Tortured souls in hell

Throughout the 20th and now into the 21st century hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have reported a low frequency pulsating noise which has become known as “The Hum”. Many have described it as sounding like a heavy diesel engine idling in the distance, but, to others, it rises through the frequency range to a higher pitched buzz.

Initially the usual possible causes were investigated including power lines, vibrating gas and water pipes and industrial machinery/processing plants, but were eventually eliminated.

Many of those affected with the noise have sought medical help to see if the noise could be as a result of tinnitus or Ménière’s disease, but mostly nothing has been found.

The “hum” is a phenomenon that has been reported across the world from Vancouver in Canada to Europe, Asia and finally to Auckland in New Zealand.

In Bristol, in the late 1970s, a low frequency noise started which they dubbed the "Bristol hum". The newspapers ran a poll asking readers: "Have you heard the Hum?" Over 900 people said they had. The noise went on for years and the population complained of sleeplessness, headaches, nausea and nosebleeds. “Experts” eventually blamed traffic and factories noise but could produce no verifiable proof. After about two years it just suddenly stopped.

There were other similar cases in Cheshire, Cornwall, Gloucestershire, Lancashire, London, Kent, Shropshire, Suffolk and Wiltshire.

In Largs in Strathclyde a low-pitched drone dubbed the "Largs hum” affected this small coastal town for over 20 years but stopped as suddenly as it started.

Outside of the UK the same type of noise was reported and was variously known as The Taos Hum in New Mexico, the Auckland Hum in New Zealand, the Windsor Hum in Ontario and the Kokomo Hum in Indiana.

The noise is more than just an irritation and at least one suicide in the UK has been blamed on exposure to the hum. The Low Frequency Noise Sufferers' Association reports that the problem is increasing and over two thousand people have phoned its helpline. Currently there are two or three new cases every week, from various parts of the country, which interestingly are generally from females over 50.

A considerable amount of investigation has been carried out concentrating on new high tech developments. The results have been inconclusive and even contradictory with gas pipes, power lines, microwave communication, wind turbines, nuclear waste sites, airports with jet engines left idling, extra-terrestrial activity, even low-frequency military transmissions being suspected. Not unexpectedly this degree of speculation results in the internet becoming full of rumour and outrageous theories.

Dr David Baguley, head of audiology at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge estimates that in about a third of cases there is some environmental source that the sound could be attributed to. However most of the time, there is no external noise that can be recorded or identified to back this assumption. His own theory - based on years of research - is that many sufferers' hearing has become over-sensitive concentrating the mind on certain frequencies of sound which it perceives as a threat.

Many people in my own area suffer with this noise and if I look around we have a large early warning station, main micro-wave communication masts, a major under-water military establishment and several airports, none of which, of course, would admit to anything, even if it were true.

If we look at the reported statistics relating to “the hum” we find that approx. 5% of the world’s population have heard it and have reported the following reactions to exposure to it.

Insomnia, Pounding Head, Difficulty concentrating , Dizziness, Headache , Burning Skin, Tension, Pins and Needles , Muscle Spasms, Heart Palpitations, Nose Bleeds, Eye Strain , Ear Pressure, Nausea and Fatigue, Panic and Desperation.

Ear plugs or hearing protectors do not help and in fact only seem to exaggerate the problem, suggesting that the source possibly makes the whole body vibrate at a frequency of around 10 MHz upwards, which is lower than the average person can hear. High quality microphones cannot record the sound and more often than not other people in the immediate vicinity can hear nothing.

The fact that the hum will suddenly start and affect a very localised area then, after an indeterminate period, suddenly stop, bears out the fact that it has nothing to do with the individual's hearing and must emanate from an external source.

I wish I could bring this article to a conclusion and give you a rational explanation for “the Hum” but I can’t. The theories range from motorway noise to the spiritualist lady who earnestly told me it was the moans of the tormented souls in hell.

As you can see the possible explanations are very open and if you have any ideas you would like to share please do so through the comments section below.

Updated information

October 2013 - Just recently there has been reports of a low frequency noise in Hythe and
Dibden Purlieu area of Hampshire. The number of complaints from residents who say they are being disturbed at night by a low-frequency noise has tripled.

New Forest District Council and the Environment Agency say they still do not know what is causing the drone that has been going on for several months.

In addition more than 30 complaints, per week, mainly from people in Hythe, Holbury and Fawley, have been received by the council.

As has been previously mentioned some reports have suggested it could be calls from mating fish. But Davina Miller, from New Forest District Council, said could not identify the noise but added it was unlikely to be the mating of midshipman fish.

She said: "A number of suggestions have been put forward by the public which have included dredging in Southampton Water, noise from the Fawley refinery or other industrial processes along the waterside, power cables, circling aircraft or military sources. "At the moment we are keeping an open mind as to the source of the noise,particularly as low frequency sound can travel considerable distances.

An Environment Agency spokeswoman said: "It could be anything. We can't set anything in stone just yet as we're still eliminating all the possibilities."

The council has been conducting out-of-hours monitoring, but did not detect the sound because background noise levels in the area were too high.

Ms Miller said monitoring equipment would now be deployed at a number of
properties over the forthcoming weeks.

Everybody who has complained will also be asked to keep a diary to record the dates and times they are affected by the noise.

Ms Miller said a small number of complaints had been received from people
as far away as Lymington, Marchwood, Totton, Shirley, Swaythling and
Sholing.

Some people believe that the noise is constant, but is particularly noticeable at night. Others say it occurs from late evening until early morning.

Many of these noises tend to fade away or become less noticeable but "the hum", if anything has become stronger and is affecting a greater cross section of people, the world over.


This phenomenon continues to baffle the best brains with additional recent reports in 2015.

Woodland, a village in County Durham, is the latest place to fall victim to the strange vibrating noise, which sounds like a constant humming growl, described by a 53 year-old bathroom installer who lives in the village. He said that he and his wife hear it in bed, downstairs in the house and outside in the garden, but adjoining residents can hear nothing.

The feeling is that it may have something to do with close by disused coal mine shafts, dozens of which riddle the area. Durham County Council says it is planning to send someone with sound monitoring equipment to the village to investigate if it is a natural vibration echo amplified by the passages or, as unlikely as it may sound the low pitched moans of a supernatural haunting.

It’s interesting to note that certain objects such as fans, compressors etc. have recently been identified as the cause, but when these items are switched off the hum does not stop.

August 2016 - Recently oceanographers, having been confused for decades, feel that a new study may have found an explanation. An article published in the online journal Geophysical Research Letters has proposed a new cause behind the "ringing": ocean waves. According to research carried out by oceanographer Fabrice Ardhuin, of the National Center based in Brest, France, the microseismic activity is caused by the collision of ocean waves, which in turn create mini seismic waves.

They used computer models of the wind, ocean and seafloor to pinpoint the exact type of waves causing the incessant "hum". Although the researchers found that colliding ocean waves create some seismic activity, it was mostly the movement and pressure of giant, slow-moving waves that lay behind the Earth’s constant vibrations. The study found that these waves could generate seismic waves with a frequency of 13 to 300 seconds: the time it takes for the ripple to travel all the way down to the seafloor. The findings indicate that the waves travel deep into the planet’s mantle -- possibly even going as far as the Earth’s core.

The Hum

Do you think you can hear "The Hum"

See results

© 2012 Peter Geekie

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    • profile image

      Colin 3 months ago

      I am hearing The Hum right now; extreme low frequency intermittent, pulsating!

      Uxbridge UK

      UB10 9NH

      Anybody else hearing this?)

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 2 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Richard,

      I'm so sorry you are suffering this. I hoped this would gradually fade away but if anything it's becoming more widespread.

      Thank you for the info, only by sharing it can we perhaps pin point the source.

      kind regards Peter

    • profile image

      Richard Wisbey 2 years ago

      I am here because all I can hear at the moment is a continual bassy hum. It sounds like bass off in the distance. I have just tried ear plugs (those good squidgy industrial foam ones) I can still hear the continual party that does not exist. My partner cannot hear it at all! It has been going on loudly now for 3 days, I have got one of those wave machines in the bedroom to try and suppress the sound at night, this does help but does not stop it. Ii have had to move into the spare room for now because of the noise I need to sleep!! I have walked all around my area checking for loud music, air con units etc.. I have found nothing. I do not have a clue what it is, its starting to drive me crazy. I have booked an appointment for the Dr, but they can't see me till the 26th August (today is the 4th!). Continuous bassy drone............Please go away, please.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 2 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Linda,

      For decades oil, water and gas pipelines have been suspected of causing the noise mainly due to the vibration pulses from the pumps. However the noise can occur in areas where there are no pipelines for hundreds of miles. Pump vibrations are fairly easy to identify as they are consistent and will only vary according to the viscosity or density of the material being pumped.

      It would be so much simpler if you could believe the information given out by industry or the military. Transco may well have crossover pipes, faulty pumps etc which could sound like the Hum but have nothing to do with it. As you can understand there are so many permutations that it is very difficult to pin it down to one single cause.

      Foam insulation panels will do little, if anything, to neutralise the hum. This would need some form of highly viscous gel barrier , which would be a very specialist application and only tackle ground vibration not sound transmitted through the air.

      You have my great sympathy

      kind regards Peter

    • profile image

      Linda 2 years ago

      The low frequency noise that is causing pain, pressure in my ears, and loss of sleep is from Transco's natural gas pipeline. I am located about 15 miles from the compressor station, but the pipeline that is making the noise is approximately 15 feet from my house. I can only hear it when I am inside the house but when I drove out to the compressor station, I could hear the same noise outside at the gate, about 2000 feet from the actual compressor station.

      The noise stops at times, for example, when Transco said they would send out a company to test the noise, they changed something, either reduced the pressure, switched to the electric compressors rather than the back up gas generators, or whatever they did, they stopped the noise until after the testing was done, then they turned it back up and it's been running none stop all week. The testing consisted of burying a receiver a few inches into the ground above the pipe and hooking a computer up to it and taking readings for about one hour.

      My daughter says she can here the noise, but my husband can not. He said he does feel the pressure though.

      Does anyone know how to stop the vibrations from the pipeline from coming through my basement to my house? If I dug a trench around my house deeper than the pipe and filled it with foam insulation panels or MLV, would that just be a waste of money?

      Thanks,

      Linda in the USA (New Jersey)

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 2 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear carol,

      Thank you for your comments.

      Now a facebook group is a good idea and may bring some new information to light.

      kind regards Peter

    • profile image

      carol 2 years ago

      https://www.facebook.com/lowfrequencyhumsufferers

      I too am affected by an annoying intrusive low frequency hum.

      I have started a facebook group specificall for this.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 2 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Forest Gump,

      Thank you for your comments.

      Some of the best brains in the world have pondered this problem for decades, but sadly without success.

      We have considered everything from the vibration of the earth spinning on its axis to voices from another world.

      Anyone who can come up with answer will have the eternal thanks of millions.

      kind regards Peter

    • profile image

      Forest Gump 2 years ago

      Sorry to read that so many people have experienced the low frequency noise and yet comforted that I am not going crazy...yet. Husband couldn't feel/hear the late night hum resonating in the house. I couldn't hear it outside in the garden. I will keep a diary...good idea. Marchwood Gas Turbines in Southampton is a possibility. Read a government report 2005 which although sympathetic it does not appear to offer a clear way forward to solve this real problem. There must be some scientists out there that could measure the problem better and this would lead to humanitarian help for the people most affected.

      kind regards to you too

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 2 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear alexadry,

      Thanks for calling by. The sound of some fridges are similar but tens of thousands of people would love it to be so simple.

      kind regards Peter

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      This sounds like a very scary ordeal to deal. I imagine it would drive me nuts if I heard it all the time. The only humming sounds I hear in my home is luckily the refrigerator.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 2 years ago from USA

      This sounds like a very scary ordeal to deal. I imagine it would drive me nuts if I heard it all the time. The only humming sounds I hear in my home is luckily the refrigerator.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 3 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear M Martin

      I'm very sorry you are now suffering from this. As I mentioned it can stop as quickly as it starts or it may last decades.

      There is still no tangible reason for the hum.

      kind regards Peter

    • profile image

      M Martin 3 years ago

      This is definitely in Tulsa, Ok in the US. My wife and I both hear it, suffer from no hearing or health problems, and have both independently described it as sounding like low frequency engine noise before ever researching it online. Very eerie as I am not prone to believe in phenomena such as these, but this is undeniably there to the point it keeps us awake at night. Little scary...hope it subsides.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 3 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Kaytie

      I'm so sorry that it affects you so badly. The only current consolation is that it can stop as quickly as it starts.

      Another theory has joined the list and that is wind movements and consequential weather has changed in the last couple of months and this could be causing the world to vibrate producing a low penetrating hum.

      It is a fascinating subject but no fun for those who suffer from the noise.

      kind regards Peter

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 3 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Andros99

      I must firstly apologise for the delay in replying. Your comment seems to have disappeared into the ether only appearing today !

      What you describe is symptomatic of the "hum". There could be all sorts of possible reasons but when properly investigated they are not the cause.

      I have looked at everything from blood flow in your head to fish talking, aliens and voices of the dammed. Perhaps one day it will be explained - it would be nice if we could exclude the military but they are tight lipped and born liars.

      kind regards Peter

    • profile image

      Kaytie Harris 3 years ago

      I live in the state of GA in the United States and just started hearing the hum about a month ago. I was already prone to migraines, but now my head almost buzzes and it is inducing migraines, I can't sleep and it is making me sick. Plus, my fiancé can't hear it, but thankfully believes me that I do.

    • profile image

      Andros99 4 years ago

      Very interested to read this. Have been searching on the internet for some explanation as to a noise that's been the bane of my life for maybe two years now. This is much stronger than the usual neighbourhood crap (and boy, they don't mind serving *that* up: dogs, traffic, stereos, etc.). This is like a deep electrical thrumming. The neighbours say they don't hear it but I can't keep it out, even with sound piped through headphones while wearing earplugs at the same time. And I feel it too...it's like a "blackness" that seems to be present around my head and I know when it's gone because of the relief that I feel in it's absence. I even feel the vibration in my feet at times! Sleep is rare these days and never restful, often with nightmares. It's been very strong in the last two weeks (mid-July 2013) and I'm starting to keep better records to at least get some idea if it has a pattern. It doesn't seem to be in my local township but more like it's in the distance somewhere, but very strong. My best theory is the power substation 12kms away which started operations about 2 years ago, roughly in the same time frame. The local Council couldn't even nominate that as a possiblity - they had no idea. But there's definitely something out there. It's affected me psychologically and physically...that is, I guess, assuming that what I'm experiencing is the same noise mentioned in the article. Maybe it's just me, I don't know. Interested in hearing people's experiences and theories on this one.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Athlyn,

      I think the jury is still out on this subject and all possibilities are open. The sounds have been analysed in depth but cannot be attributed to anything either man-made or natural. I find it fascinating, although am conscious of the effect it has on some people.

      Kind regards Peter

    • Athlyn Green profile image

      Athlyn Green 4 years ago from West Kootenays

      Since moving to Atlantic Canada, I hear this hum all the time but am not sure if it is my ears or from an external source. It is worse when I am downstairs in my home.

      There are a number of videos which discuss earth sounds, which viewers can hear. I'm not sure if this is the same phenom as the hum.

      This was a good Hub, well-written and an enjoyable and informative read.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear mata,

      I'm sorry that you have become conscious of the noise. I would speculate that what you are hearing at the moment is not the "hum" but often congestion in the nasal and ear passages or the flow of blood in the head which can result in a high pitched ring rather than a low pitch rumble. I'm fairly sure this will pass when the congestion eases.

      kind regards Peter

    • profile image

      mata 4 years ago

      now that I read this I stopped to see if I had that at this moment and sure enough I do- and its not going away. I don't want to be conscious of it. I wish I hadn't read this-sorry- its not your fault that I hear a high sound-I wish it wasn't there! My ears are extremely sensitive! I wonder if it is from too much loud singing-(which I do every now and then)! It is like the sound of glass- like two glasses bumping into each other but the ring keeps going!

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear ryanjhoe,

      Thank you for your comment. I agree when we were children we had a far more open mind about such things. As adults we must always have a rational explanation for everything - however, sometimes there just isn't one.

      Kind regards Peter

    • ryanjhoe profile image

      ryanjhoe 4 years ago from Somewhere over the rainbow

      Yes, I often wondering when I was a kid. It is very marvelous thing our body parts could do. Nice hubs and thanks for the information you provide.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Imogen,

      Thanks for your comment. Over the years pretty much all possible sources of man made noise has been explored.

      One of the latest theories is the multitude of fish communicating with each other. Possible because most sea creatures communicate at very low frequency sound. However this sound is unlikely to penetrate more than ten miles or so inland so I think this is another idea to join the filing bin.

      Kind regards Peter

    • Imogen French profile image

      Imogen French 4 years ago from Southwest England

      Very interesting subject. I do know people who complain about this phenomenon, but don't think I've really noticed it to such an extreme.

      One thing I have noticed is how different things sound when we have a power cut - the silence is amazing when the electrical hum totally stops, and the whole atmosphere is quite different. I wonder if that is a factor.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Thanks very much for the comment. As a scientist I should be able to find a rational explanation for this noise, but I have to admit I can't.

      Certain people with heightened awareness may be more susceptible to the range of noise but it doesn't explain it's origin.

      kind regards Peter

    • ESPeck1919 profile image

      ESPeck1919 4 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      This is an extremely interesting hub. I used to hear that hum every once in a while, actually. When I was at my last, absolutely terrible, job, I would hear it daily for weeks on end. No one else in the office would, and there were times where I could feel the vibration in my chest. It hasn't happened again since leaving that place, thankfully. It was pretty miserable while it lasted.

      I seem to remember it would only make itself known when I was under intense amounts of stress. Interestingly, I also have extremely sharp hearing, thanks to early martial arts training and sensitizing myself to my surroundings for personal safety reasons.

      It's interesting that the higher pitched variety be mentioned, too. The last time I was camping with my husband by Lake Superior, I was woken up by a terrible, piercing shriek. It was loud and sharp enough that it actually sent a bolt of pain through my head. It almost sounded like it could have been electric in origin.

      Hubby didn't hear anything, of course.

      It went away after several seconds, but I never figured out what exactly it was. I haven't been able to find anything like it on the internet, either.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear lipnancy,

      A nice thought, which would be great if it were true. I can't try it as I don't hear the hum. Perhaps any others could comment.

      Kind regards Peter

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I have been taught something different about the hum... Some say that it is the spirits from the other side communicating with you. Sometimes if you stop and are still, you can get your message and then the hum goes away.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear teaches12345,

      Oh! I wish it was a joke. When you see someone driven to despair trying to escape something you can't hear or protect them against you realise what a cruel problem it is.

      Those who don't suffer tend to treat it lightly but the only way to perhaps overcome it is to publicise it and encourage people to think of a possible cause.

      Thank you for your concern.

      Kind regards Peter

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      I read through your article and thought that it was a jest of some kind, but I see that it is seriously a matter of consideration. I have not heard of this before. I can imagine that it would be very irritating to some sensitive people. Thanks for the new learning today.

    • Peter Geekie profile image
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      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear ehealer,

      Without wishing to sound flippant all we need to do is decode the signals and see what they are saying. However, anything is possible so I don't dismiss it.

      Kind regards Peter

    • eHealer profile image

      Deborah 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      Peter, this is so interesting, the noise is been defined as a signal of aliens to the over population of people in the world. Very interesting article and and a subject that I've been following. Wow, this is great!

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear UnamedHarald,

      Apparently, according to my wife who can hear it and has meniere's the two sounds are quite different. I don't know too much about this but I will look at what's involved in a poll.

      Kind regards Peter

    • Peter Geekie profile image
      Author

      Peter Geekie 4 years ago from Sittingbourne

      Dear Kate,

      Hopefully Ireland is immune from the Hum because it is enough to drive anyone mad.

      Kind regards Peter

    • UnnamedHarald profile image

      David Hunt 4 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      I don't think I've heard the hum but I think I may have tinnitus. It doesn't effect me physically (headaches etc) but now I have one more thing to be paranoid about :) Hey, this might be a good hub to slip in a poll.

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 4 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      Although this hub is well-researched, this is indeed a very puzzling phenomenon isn't it?I have never heard of "the hum " before and hope I never hear it either because it sounds most unpleasant.