The cause of the Hum, very strong support is presented for a magneto-acoustic theory of both generation and perception by comparing anecdotal reports from subjects seeking relief in caves and mines.   By Dr Chris Barnes Bangor Scientific and Educational Enterprises 


The definition of the Hum and Hummers is briefly reviewed. Anecdotal reports show big differences between what happens to Hummers in limestone caves and copper mines. These differences are explained in terms of a magneto acoustic mechanism for Hum generation and perception.  The mechanism elegantly fits most if not all described properties of the Hum form around the world and reinforces the recent proposal of the author that the Hum has both natural and anthropogenic components. Previous space physics connections with the Hum are reinforced by advocating that the Hum is due to coupling between the magnetic and seismic manifestations of PC1 pulsations at earth’s surface or in rock with signals from power systems or even potentially also VLF transmitters and/or HAARP. The HUM as initially manifest has to be from power systems as these pre-date the rest.     




The Hum is an auditory phenomenon which plagues the lives of thousands, possibly millions of people Worldwide. The Hum was fist widely reported in the UK in the late 1970’s and in the USA in the 1990’s. The Hum is sporadic in both time and place and reports continue to this day and appear to be on the increase.


Those afflicted by the Hum report hearing a persistent low frequency noise with quasi-periodic variations to both frequency and amplitude not unlike a distant, slowly idling, mistuned, diesel engine.   They also report the noise as being worse inside buildings and at the dead of night. The Hum can be very distressing for individuals especially if they don’t realise that it is a real external phenomenon.  


People who hear or perceive the Hum are known loosely as ‘Hummers’.   The author, his wife and two other close family members are all Hummers.  The author began hearing the Hum in 2005 and having Scientific and Engineering training decided to try and solve the enigma what is the Hum and what causes the Hum.


Undoubtedly, some cases of the Hum can and have been explained by Low frequency noise and infrasound.  Low frequency noise however, can sometimes be audio-recorded.  There are cases of the Hum including the famous Taos Hum which cannot  or have not yet be recorded and this has led the present author to draw a distinction and to coin the phrase Hum type 3 for Hums which fall into this category.    


The author has found that Hum type 3 appears to be associated with subliminally low levels of acoustic and infrasonic noise coincident with the same or similar frequency components present as fluctuating magnetic fields. Such signals can come from the very fabric of the earth and space itself modulated by anthropogenic noise say for example from power systems or ELF communications or even HAARP  e.g. as in Detection and Imaging of Underground Structures by Exploiting ELF/VLF radio waves Authors: Larry G. Stolarczyk; RATON TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH INC NM.


The hypothesis is that the noise or magnetic field alone would be too weak to elicit a bio-response but when combined a duelling or synaesthesia of the senses occurs. Given that it the existences of two different molecular forms of bio-magnetite have recently been found in man. Many organisms, including humans, biochemically precipitate the ferrimagnetic mineral magnetite (Fe3O4). In the magnetotactic bacteria, the geomagnetic response is based on either biogenic magnetite or greigite (Fe3S4), and reasonably good evidence exists that this is also the case in higher animals such as the honey bee, Joseph L. Kirschvink et al.  Thus this is a by no means unreasonable hypothesis.         A closed model in extremely strong support of the author’s magneto-acoustic hypothesis for the Hum is that certain car electrical systems, for example, the PWM vanity light dimmer circuit, will elicit the perception of Hum like effects in Hum sensitive individuals.    The author has personal experience of this phenomenon, the anecdotal evidence of his wife and a personal communication from a lady Hummer in South Wales who experiences the Hum in parked motor vehicles also.  


Seeking Relief in Mines and Caves.  

The original paper on the Hum by David Deming ( ref) mentions a reference to Hummers seeking and obtaining relief from the Hum in deep limestone mines. 


The original reference has been traced and included in its entirety for completeness. 

From TINNITUS, L. Sheppard and C. Sheppard,

Norfolk Tinnitus Society, 1993



                 The Phenomenon of Low Frequency Hums


  What would cause an otherwise perfectly normal man to sleep on a

local park bench during many of the late Spring and Summer nights?

Or to camp out in Market Square whilst his wife brings him food and

drink during the day?  The answer to this and much more lies in the

Phenomenon of Low Frequency Noise, which is being reported by many

thousands of people in this country [Great Britain].  In this particular

case this man's local park and his city centre are two locations he

has discovered in which these mysterious noises do not trouble him.


  This problem has been known for at least two decades yet still

remains a mystery although the number of complaints have increased

at an alarming rate.


  It has been authoritatively stated that many thousands of people

all over the country are complaining of being plagued by this noise.

This may well be a conservative estimate, for amongst a wealth of

personal reports on my own files many of these people are stating

that they find it best not to say anything to others about it in

case they may be regarded as "mad" or "weird".  There must be a

host of unreported cases.


  Although not a sufferer, I personally became aware of the

phenomenon around 1986 when the media reported a number of complaints

of a low pitched humming sound in the small village of Worlingham

in Suffolk.  I am aware that there existed reports of this problem

much earlier than this.


  I spent a whole day in Worlingham at the time and interviewed

a considerable number of these people.  My tentative suggestion

that perhaps some of them were suffering from a low frequency type

of tinnitus was met on all sides with adamant rejection.  They were

quite certain that the noise they were hearing was not in their head

or ears but was reaching them externally. 


  All were articulate, sensible people, and in no way "cranky" or

unusual.  Of the people I interviewed there was a fairly even

distribution of both men and women from all walks of life.  Although

I have had tinnitus for many years, quite frankly I could hear nothing

of the kind of noise they seemed to be experiencing, yet even as I

spoke to them many were obviously being greatly disturbed by something.


  It was at the time that my earlier book on tinnitus was just going

to the publishers and I felt that the problem was so closely allied

to tinnitus that I decided at almost the last minute to include a

chapter on it in that book.


  Possibly there have been no other published books dealing with

this particular phenomenon since, but the outcome has been that

I have received numerous reports on the matter not only from

Britain but from several foreign countries as well.


  I do not think that anyone would dispute the fact that this

phenomenon exists and that everyone should be made aware of the

fact that it is causing untold misery to many thousands of people.

Yet despite many attempts no one has yet been able to trace the

source and prove it.  It has become popularly known as "The Hum"

and those suffering from it are known as "Hummers".


  In 1989 these people, finding that nothing was being done except for

spasmodic reports appearing in various newspapers etc from time to time

and leading nowhere, formed their own Society in Britain known as the Low

Frequency Noise Sufferers Association and today they appear to have a

large membership.  Not only do they keep in contact with each other by

means of a regular newsletter, but I also know that many of them have

their own private circles and these people regularly phone one another

comparing intensities and other current features of the noise.


  Numerous suggestions have been put forward at different times

from various sources as to the cause, most popular being that

the large underground pipes carrying North Sea Gas are to blame.

The strength of this suggestion has often been apparently backed

by the fact that increased incidence seems to occur soon after

the laying of these pipe lines.  But on this British Gas reply "It

is one hundred percent certain there is no link.  We have done all

sorts of tests on the whole theory."


  Other suggestions have revolved around such things as electricity

pylons, water mains, underground railways and water pumps, generators,

fans, transformers, electromagnetic fields set up around radio or TV

transmitters, microwaves, etc...but nothing has been firmly identified

as being the cause.  Meantime, thousands of sufferers are having the

quality of their lives severely affected and feel extremely bitter

that so little is being done to help them.


  It is an interesting point that from a report of a Conference on

"The Hum" held at The Royal Society of Medicine, London, on the

25th of November 1989 it appears that the majority of people

suffering from the problem state that the noise appears to have

two differing components -- a straightforward "hum" plus another

lower frequency modulation.


  Sufferers report that the noise is quite unlike that of tinnitus

as it does not emanate from within the head or ears and to many of

them it appears to reach them through walls, floors, and ceilings

when inside, and externally when outside.  It causes them

considerable stress and loss of sleep which greatly lowers the

quality of life.  The long term effects of such exposure have yet

to be documented. . . .


  A sufferer from Leicester whose daughters and herself are all

suffering badly from the noise writes "at all hours of the day

and night we roam around the area trying to locate the source."

Being unable to sleep in the house when the noise is particularly

bad, she is forced to sleep in the garden shed, the only place in

her home where she is free of the problem. . . .


  This phenomenon is not by any means confined to Britain for I

personally know that it exists in Italy, Canada and Spain [and the

U.S.] and probably worldwide. . . .


  There are a number of very good reasons why these people should

be taken seriously.  It is all too easy to point to the possibilities

of some aural disfunction -- this is the standard explanation from

most of the medical profession.  But it is pointed out that these

sufferers from "The Hum" are able to find certain places in which

they do not experience the noise any time.  This is very different

from the experience of anyone with tinnitus in which the noises are

with them wherever they may be.


  Additionally a number of these people will tell you that they

have tinnitus and are quite aware that one noise is within the

head and the other definitely coming from some external source.


  It seems to me that one very reasonable explanation might

be that certain people may have an extension of the normal

spectrum of hearing, and if this extension leans toward the lower

range of frequencies they may well be picking up some noise which

others cannot hear as it is beyond the range of normal hearing.


  There have been reports of "Hummers" going into deep limestone

caves such as exist in Cheddar and Wookey Hole when the noise

completely ceases -- a further indication that this is no fantasy.


  Whilst noise experts admit to being completely baffled, thousands

of people continue to suffer from the phenomenon and are being made

ill by untraceable sounds which the other members of their families

cannot hear at all. . . .


  I feel that what is needed most of all at the moment is for the

three professional camps involved -- the authorities, the medical

world, and noise experts -- to agree to pool knowledge and resources

in a combined effort to try to pin down the cause. . . .



Clearly the authors of the article are convinced that the Hum is a real effect but are mystified as to its cause. One could perhaps have a hypothesis that if the Hum were due to acoustic noise from the surface then this noise would be attenuated as one got deeper underground, similarly if the Hum were due to electromagnetic radiation other than ELF which penetrates the ground.


If the former were true than all deep caves and mines ought to attenuate the Hum.  If the latter were true mines and caves with more electrically conductive rock such as for example copper mines ought to attenuate the Hum even better.


The present author has recently obtained a link to a U-tube clip showing an American Hummer taken into a copper mine,  Instead of this individual’s perception of the Hum weakening according to the above hypothesis it actually got worse!




Discussion in support of magneto-acoustic generation and detection (perception) of the Hum  


The only way to square the above results, appreciated they are anecdotal, but such is the nature of doing science with subjective phenomena, is to advance both a magneto acoustic generation and perception mechanism for the Hum.  The present author has already discussed such mechanisms elsewhere (refs).   Limestone is the least magnetic of all sedimentary rocks, magnetic properties Dearing Handbook  (refs).


In copper mines, it is virtually impossible to find Copper Ore without inclusion of Nickel Ore due to the density of these elements.  Nickel ore is magnetic and   chalcopyrite one of the main ores of copper is magnetic when heated.  Such magnetic materials will respond to varying magnetic fields of appropriate frequency by exhibiting magnetostriction. Indeed combined electric and magnetic stimulation in rock is known to bring about increased acoustic emission Borovskii, B. V.; Bogomolov, L. M.; Zakupin, A. S.; Mubassarova, V. A.Izvestiya, Physics of the Solid Earth, Volume 47, Issue 10, pp.926-936

It was first realized the VLF   would propagate well in copper and iron ore in 1963, A.S. Eve et al  (ref). 


Many of the regions in the World which experience the Hum stand on igneous rock which is the most magnetic. These include the famous Largs and North Shore Newzealand. The oldest rocks in the Taos range are also igneous rocks.    Even house bricks themselves become magnetised in the brick making process (New Scientist Vol. 90, No. 1257 11th June 1981) and also exhibit piezoelectricity. 


The present author has already showed evidence in very strong support of the Hum arising as a mixture of natural and anthropogenic seismic (seismo-electric and magneto-seismic)   processes.  This in itself is sufficient to explain why the subject who went into a copper mine found an enhancement of the Hum.  There would also be the possibility of mutual coupling between fields in the rock and fields established in any bio magnetite within the individual in addition to the direct coupling of noise and vibration from underlying rock to buildings and into the ear of the subject.


Those researching the Hum have long sought to explain the effect of its apparent fundamental frequency with quasi-periodic modulation.  The magneto-acoustic mechanism of Hum generation and perception allows elegantly for this.  The Hum has been tone matched by those afflicted at between 30 -80 Hz.  These are frequencies typical of power system harmonics ( 2 x 16.7Hz) ,  sub-harmonics, fundamentals and inter-harmonics. Power systems frequencies would normally be monotones and easily screened out by the brain (ref) but with modulations this would not be so possible.

The modulations are described as quasi –periodic and between 0.2-5 Hz. These are frequencies and behaviours typical of PC1 geo-magnetic pulsations (refs).  There is scope for mixing of these frequencies both in the earth and rock (refs) and in the ear and body (ref).   The hypothesis is that the body is very highly tuned to geo-magnetism and indeed there are numerous references to this (refs) yet would normally be unaware of such low frequencies except when they become modulated onto the unnatural signals from power systems and possibly other anthropogenic electromagnetic, seismic or acoustic sources.   Non-linear seismic coupling is well known and is exploited in two US patents7227362 and RE41829.

The author has previously made reference to the magnetic component of the Hum being severely enhanced in Bangor when the Interplanetary Magnetic field points Southwards and to an effect of the solar wind.    This is not inconsistent with the above hypothesis and is supported by the work of McPherron (ref). 


The author has also previously made reference to the Hum getting worse before significant earthquakes.  In extremely strong support of this is and the notion of PC1 pulsations as the ‘natural’ component of the Hum is the paper by J.Bortnik et al ( ref) which indicates that at least for daytime pulsations earthquakes are three to five times more likely the week after!


It has been shown that even PC1 pulsations themselves are not entirely natural and events can be precipitated by human activity (refs). Such activity includes power line harmonic radiation, VLF transmitters (T.F. Bell 1976) and HAARP (refs). The HUM as initially manifest and described of course has to be from power systems as these pre-date the rest.     


  Clearly the Chinese are concerned about a possible connection between power systems emissions and earthquakes, see Wu Jing Fu Jingjing (ref). The Russians too are very concerned about anthropogenic modulation of natural wave processes; see Guglielmi and Zotov (ref).  The Hum is all too obvious of a reminder that these influences are getting greater.


            Apparently mankind now perhaps somewhat arrogantly seeks to take over nature’s processes see the ‘Resonance Project’ which seeks to actively affect the conditions for PC1 generation (ref).  PC1 pulsations can also be influenced by altering the DC electric field in the atmosphere and /or by AGWS (ref).   There are doubtless technologies being developed to address these controlling facets as well.



Discussion and future work

Who knows what the future holds.  Such technologies to control PC1 could be a potential way of reducing the Hum or making it less penetrating.  Conversely there is potential for making it worse or even making it a weapon.    It would seem there is a lot of interest in developing 3D ELF radar for oil deposits and scanning for underground tunnels.  In this respect HAARP has already been tested as a CSAMT transmitter (refs).    


At least now Hummers can feel confident that they understand their affliction.  Hum free hotels might be developed wherein one could sleep in a mu metal room FOR A FEE OF COURSE! Special diets or drugs might be developed to rid our bodies of bio-magnetite and ferritin?


What is needed now by the present author is access to lots of Hummers (more experimental subjects) and funding to develop my work.


The last seven years has been one of the most prolific authoring periods of my life. As a scientist I feel I have taken on one of the most complex and few last remaining unexplained phenomena in the World and I am so grateful that the intellect I have been blessed with has allowed me a glimpse of the solution.




I wish to acknowledge my wife and son and former colleague Stuart Wisher for interesting discussions on the Hum. I further wish to acknowledge all the Hummers around Britain with whom I have had direct telephone and email contact and without whose anecdotal input my work would not have been possible.