The Hum is a World –wide expanding problem more than just ‘over sensitive’ hearing.  Can we explain the ‘oversensitive’ bit?


By Dr Chris Barnes, Bangor Scientific Consultants. E-MAIL






The nature and some theories of the Hum are briefly summarised. It is acknowledged that some or maybe all ‘hummers’ have over –sensitive hearing and importantly reasons for such sensitisation are advanced and corroborated by existing scientific literature.



Introduction description and causes of the Hum


There has been much debate in both Scientific and amateur investigation circles concerning the mechanism for perception of the phenomenon known as the Hum. This special class of low frequency noise not yet fully understood is painfully annoying to those afflicted who have variously described it as sounding like either a distant idling diesel truck, a bee trapped in a bottle, very low pitched Morse code   or a combination of the three. Another feature of the Hum is that some people describe it as sounding as though it were coming from behind one ear.  As for frequencies, the Hum is often tone matched by afflicted individuals at around 30Hz with lower frequency psuedo-random modulations. It should be remembered, however, that for infrasound tonal perception is difficult if not impossible.


There are those authors who argue that the most likely origin in time and space for the Hum is electromagnetic transmission from specialised military aircraft (1). There are others who argue that the likely origin is energy radiated from the UK power grid (2,3).  There are those who have speculated that infrasonic and acoustic noise from gas pipes and traffic may be to blame (4).



The present author has previously suggested the involvement of both electromagnetic fields   and infrasonic or acoustic sound in the perception of the Hum and indeed that humans can somehow act as bio-radio acoustic atmospheric sounders! Various complex mechanisms were suggested and the author produced other experiments showing biological effects in the presence of such fields.


However, at that time no independent scientific evidence existed to corroborate such claims.  More recently, however, it has come to light that a significant percentage of human individuals are sensitive to the crossing or movement of electromagnetic standing waves from FM or Television transmitters (5). Such effect has been evidenced by comparing the pattern of the subjects’ hand involuntary movements with the pattern in the electromagnetic standing wave amplitude upon movement of a reflector plate behind the subject.


Moreover this result has been extended into a new hypothesis based on small involuntary movements of the cochlea exposed to a similar Bragg matched acousto-electric pulsating standing wave pattern (6).   


Over-sensitive hearing


But do we need such intimate coherence for the Hum?  Do we just need good hearing?   Indeed recently it has been proposed that those afflicted by the Hum have simply got or developed ultra- sensitive low frequency hearing (7). However, since the numbers of Hum sufferers around the world seems to be increasing particularly as more of the world evolves and employs more and more modern infrastructure one has, perhaps, to pose the question what if anything is sensitising human hearing?



We know that some cases of the Hum such as Kokomo, for example, have been shown to be due to just acoustic sound and infrasound. Yet there are those on Hum forums who argue vehemently that the Hum is due to electromagnetic transmissions and those such as Dawes (2) who argue strongly that is not.   Can electromagnetic transmissions alter the hearing in some way as to make it more sensitive?  We are up against a minefield when we examine the literature because the mobile phone lobbies fund most of it and try to disproof any biological effect whatsoever be it positive or negative.  


The author has previously proposed that radio frequency fields may, rather than being the cause of the hum, merely be enhancers of hearing at low frequencies because of his own subjective experience of only starting to hear the Hum when moving to a house close by a powerful BT paging transmitter. He has also noticed that he experiences the Hum worse after long spells operating his Ham radio station. Even the author’s 26-year-old son hears the Hum on a good few occasions and he is way below the average age for most ‘hummers’ (8). 


Although it was not really initially helpful to write all hummers off as merely having ‘over sensitive hearing’ (9) it is nevertheless probably very matter of fact.   The question is what makes it matter of fact?


First mode of acoustic sensitisation by radio frequencies


As people age they loose auditory acuity particularly at frequencies in excess of 4 KHz.  Their bodies most likely ramp up auditory sensitivity at low frequencies to compensate. What if exposure to radio frequencies did the same?  It has very recently been shown by Meric et al 2010 (10) that at least at occupational levels this indeed the case. Strangely, way back in the early days of his excursion into Hum research the present author made a submission to JSE noting that nearly all the well known Hum sites in the world were close to powerful broadcast radio or TV transmitters. Sadly one of their two reviewers was incapable of understanding the submission.    This prompted the author to commence these present volumes of Internet self –publication. 



Second mode of sensitisation


The ear is a non-linear parametric amplifier system (11) and its acuity can actually be enhanced by some kinds of background noise, so called stochastic resonance.   It has recently been shown that channels other than direct acoustic stimulation can supply this noise. For instance Zeng et al (12) have shown that electric stimulation of the auditory nerve and /or brainstem will achieve the same effect.


Tentatively coupling this with the notion that microwave pulses have been shown to produce brainstem stimulation in laboratory animals possibly by thermo-elastic mechanisms and we have a feasible second mode of auditory sensitisation (13). 


Closing remarks


The Hum is truly a facet of modern living.             Once an enigma and relegated to the realms of the paranormal the Hum, thanks to the grit and determination of the present author and the patience of his long suffering wife, is now at long last revealing its secrets.


Perhaps ‘Hum’ is too trivial a name for an all-pervasive world wide gravito-magneto-acoustic signal with electro- magnetically enhanced bio-detection!  Hmmmm?




1.      D.Deming,The Hum: An anomalous sound heard around the world’ Journal of Scientific Exploration, Volume 18, No4, pp571-595-