The Hum and Hum like effects; a Unifying Magneto-Acoustic Theory with Fully explainable example Scenarios.  By Dr Chris Barnes, Bangor Scientific and Educational Consultants, December 12th 2012. Revised December 13th 2012


The Hum is briefly defined and its present day history revealed. Whereas a minority of Hum cases can be solved and turn out to be variants in LFN, the greater majority have remained unsolved.  A unifying hypothesis based on environmental iron and brain magnetite as common denominators is advanced wherein coherent magnetic and acoustic components are amplified.  The hypothesis is sufficient to account for manifold and otherwise perplexing instances of the Hum.  Further it should hopefully lead to more tracings of the Hum and eventual better prevention.



The Hum is a somewhat mystifying and geo-sporadic acoustic (some have even dared to suggest psycho-acoustic and blamed the poor unfortunate victims for ‘focusing too hard on background noises’ [1] phenomenon which has plagued people on this planet since the 1970’s. Those afflicted, an estimated 2% of the adult population, or about 11% of the middle aged adult population are thought to have low frequency hearing some 20-30dB more sensitive than the average and they complain of an annoying, sometimes extremely distressing noise described as rather like a distant pulsating engine which is often perceived worse in the dead of night.  A person who hears these noises is sometimes described as a ‘Hummer.’ At least now a biophysical mechanism for increased hearing sensitivity has very recently been offered, see Mirielle Oud, Congres Goluid, Trillingen, The Netherlands (2012)[2].   For some ear plugs have proved partially or wholly ineffective and thus for this reason alone the general cause of the noise definitely warrants further scientific investigation.  Indeed the possible of non-aural physiological effects at frequencies below 100 Hz is acknowledged by the reputable Journal Noise and Health (  Year : 2004  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 23  |  Page : 73-85 Effects of low frequency noise up to 100 Hz M, Schust)[3].


Just three cases of the Hum that the author is aware of have been solved as attributable to either low frequency noise or infrasound or a combination of the two (Solving a case of the HUM (Barnes) [4] and Feldmann and Pitten [5].

Perhaps the most famous of these is the Kokomo Hum [6].  A Hum on the Big Island of Hawaii, for example, typically related to volcanic action, is heard in locations dozens of miles apart [7].


On the basis of the above far more Hums ought to be traceable even if their origin is dual channel acoustic/infrasonic or acoustic/seismic. When all is said and done the necessary test equipment and detectors exist (Carnes and Lundien 1984)[8] and signals propagated thereto have been exploited in the past for the identification of heavy military vehicles (Altmann 2004).  Altmann (2004)[9] also notes that injected seismic signals are subject to local variations and that their shape varies strongly with position.  This facet may be important in understanding why the Hum is apparently so highly geo-sporadic. 


However, despite all of the above by far and above the large remaining number of cases of the Hum around the World remain either totally unexplained or inadequately explained. Thus we need to search for some other causative factor.


Much light has recently been shed on this additional causative factor by the present author. The author himself is a Hummer together with his son, his wife and sister-in law a fact which has allowed first hand personal experience and research, all these subjects can comfortably hear down to frequencies as low as 9Hz in at least one ear. Thus initially the author assumed the Hum to purely an infrasonic or LFN phenomenon.   A couple of ‘chance’ discoveries led to the ‘magneto-acoustic’ hypothesis of the Hum.  Doing good science, the author had instrumented the master bedroom of his house with all kinds of sensors.  The first  such occasion was that he noticed that in one incredibly intense instance of the Hum there was present in addition to infrasound an intense low frequency magnetic comb spectrum which could be received by a simple inductive winding connected to the sound card input on a laptop computer running FFT spectrum analysis software with a waterfall output.  The second such occasion was in a parked vehicle just after the driver’s door had been closed, initiating dimming of the interior vanity lighting.      


The present author has recently provided incontrovertibly strong evidence for a magnetic hypothesis of the Hum based on thousands of anecdotal reports of its properties from all corners of the globe (The Cause and Perception of the Hum overwhelming support for a magnetic hypothesis by Dr Chris Barnes Bangor Scientific and Educational Enterprises   First released into Public Domain August 2012 re-released November 2012 *)[10]   and has described the Hum or at least one type of the Hum as ‘magneto-acoustic.’ ([11]


Further, the present author has also previously shown that the Hum in Bangor appears to have some facets of a natural phenomenon and some facets of an anthropogenic phenomenon and has also previously put forward a complex hypothesis of how the World’s power systems may be modifying the Earth’s space environment to bring about the Hum by atmosphere-lithosphere coupling.     


It is clear, however, that there are others who are convinced mobile phone telephony could in some way be responsible for the Hum.  The question arises is it possible to create a unifying hypothesis which would account for all cases of the Hum and Hum like effects which are not directly attributable to just LFN and infrasound. Even the author has noticed increases in the Hum at strategic distances form radio transmitters and further for instance the author has referred to ‘an anomalous case of hearing the Hum in a parked motor vehicle whilst activating the interior light dimmer.  Can, for example, such anomalous, cases of the Hum be made to fit in with one unifying theory?  




With a magneto-acoustic Hum there should be some involvement magnetic fields and sound.  A common and more unifying external thread would appear to be iron or steel.

The author has recently discovered a corroded steel girder in a part of his house above the master bedroom. Indeed the only other houses and buildings the author has heard significant Hum in have contained steel painted or non –painted RSJ Girders. There could be a precedent for hearing the Hum in many houses and buildings since most are now full of steel central heating radiators. Old type window frames are full of steel. Cavity wall ties are made of steel. Modern double glazing has some steel components within.

Steel is also a unifying factor in hearing the Hum at the author’s home near a corrugated large steel sports Hall facility and a unifying factor in hearing the Hum at several mobile locations which the author has previously tested  and of course is a unifying factor whenever the Hum is heard in a car be it associated with the car electrical systems or when the car is parked underneath power lines. 

So what of the generation and detection mechanism?   We need unification here as well.  Is this possible?  The author believes it is.    The detection mechanism needs ideally to involve some sort of coherent or phase locked amplification involving simultaneously reception of a modulated magnetic field    and an acoustic sound field so as the two reinforce as in a duelling of the senses.   This way one or even both signals might even be in the noise i.e. less than thermal energy see (Vladimir N Bingi and Aleksandr V Savin 2003 Phys.-Usp. 46 259 doi:10.1070/PU2003v046n03ABEH001283)[12].

Effects of weak magnetic fields on biological systems: physical aspects. This would have been the case when Mullins ( [13] searched for an acoustic trace of the original Taos Hum.   Is such a mechanism possible? Schiff (1991)[14] first proposed that biogenetic magnetite would act as an amplifier of external magnetic induction changes in bees as early as 1991 and further that the amplified field would influence only neuronal elements in a restricted region close to the magnetite grain involved. Since then has been proven that bio magnetite nano-particles exist in virtually all living tissue especially the human brain ( Brain Res. Bull. (1996) vol. 39: 255-259 Magnetic Properties of Human Hippocampal Tissue: Evaluation of Artefact and Contamination Sources [15]Jon Dobson and Paola Grassi. Taking this with the truly astonishing finding that living cells have been shown to have a non-linear mechanism for radio frequency energy conversion some ten thousand million times more sensitive than a Schottky diode ( Bioelectromagnetics 23:278, 2002)[16] one should perhaps be wise not to doubt the plausibly of the present hypothesis for detection.  Furhter  Istvan Bókkon and Vahid Salari have proposed that biomagnetites are developed jointly with organic molecules and cellular electromagnetic fields in cells; they can record information about the Earth’s magnetic vector potential of the entire flight in migratory birds[17]. Perhaps there should be no reason to suppose that similar processes should not occur in humans (Spin modulated information storage in biomagnetites István Bókkon,5&q=biomagnetite+conformon)[18].

Clearly the generation mechanism might need to be slightly different for each individual case of the Hum or Hum like effect but will there be a common thread?  The author believes the answer here is yes.  The common thread has to be the Earths’ own geomagnetic filed which will both suffer from local variations as with for instance electrical ground currents one example of which is in conductive plumbing (Childhood cancer in relation to indicators of magnetic fields from ground current sources Nancy Wertheimer1,*,David A. Savitz1,Ed Leeper2)[19] and space-earth modulation  for example by power systems radiation [PDF] Magnetospheric effects of power line radiation CG Park, RA Helliwell - Science, 1978 -[20] but most importantly will align magnetic domains I any bulk iron or steel involved in local Hum generation.  It does not matter that that steel might, for instance, be part of a car body for it is impossible to screen the earth’s magnetic vector potential.  The acoustic channel might be air or ground borne   or both [21]) or it might be locally generated within the steel itself.  All that is needed is that it is coherent or has a fixed predictably variable phase relationship with the modulated magnetic channel.  What else of the steel?  Either it functions as a magnetic amplifier of the earth’s fluctuating field alone or there is additional local magnetic modulation. Possible mechanisms for the latter are seen as being via Lorentz force and/or magnetostriction   rather as in an EMAT  [22] and/or via magnetic amplification via biasing due to rectification style demodulation at an oxide or coating layer, for example as in galvanised steel. This could then allow the link for example between pulsed electromagnetic radiation and the Hum, wherein each pulse might cause transient saturation magnetisation or a tendency towards the same  rather as in pulsed eddy current materials testing (Xu and Wu et al July 2011) [23]without a pre-standing requirement for microwave demodulation in the human head or ear.  

This unifying hypothesis will now be expanded by way of full explanation of a number of Hum scenarios.


Scenario 1:  Night-time Hum which defeats or partially defeats ear plugs from untraceable source heard mainly inside building  


The first question to be asked is does the building contain magnetic material?  In the great majority of cases the answer will be yes.


The next question to be asked will be is there a large quantity of magnetic material nearby either in other buildings or structures or in the earth or rock below?    If the answer is yes this is a strong scenario for a magneto-acoustic Hum.


It will be most likely the coherent sound channel(s) which determine how the Hum comes and goes.  Either this will be due to diurnal shifts in propagation of an airborne channel and/or due to temporal shifts in a ground channel which could for instance include something like a synchronous pump or generator.   


One must remember that one or more of the channels might be at such subliminal strength not to register on traditional recording equipment.



Scenario 2


Hum in house only present 24/7.


The first two questions are as for Scenario 1 above. However this time there must be a coherent sound channel which is continually active and probably also much closer.   


Such a sound channel might again arise from something like an underground pump (M.L.Nave 1989)[24] or similar or sound being borne through an underground pipe (Jette and Parker 1980)[25] however, influence of pulsed electromagnetic radiation on an oxide layer in a magnetic material or dissimilar metal surface layer should not be ruled out.



Scenario 3


Hum in car only when interior light dims.


Magnetic component is provided by changing magnetic field in cabling due to PWM pulses.

Very weak coherent sound pulse is also present.  The author has noticed this effect does not always happen and postulates that a precise level of earth field magnetic vector potential might simultaneously need to be present for its perception.  Nevertheless this is one of the most demonstrable and striking examples in that the pulse pattern discerned by the subjects could also be heard on an off-tuned transistor radio.  



Scenario 4


Hum in car parked under power lines 


Magnetic vector potential of power lines is not shielded by steel of car.  Hum perception seems to depend on behaviour of sub and inter-harmonic present.  Accompanying acoustic signal will be via EMAT like processes in steel body of car. 



Scenario 5


Hum in car at special distances from Radio Transmitters  


Magnetic vector potential seen by magnetite in brain is effectively that of earth’s field plus internal modulation by any amplitude variations present in r.f. carrier wave.  Correlation is not always good, as accompanying acoustic signal not necessarily coherent.  Experiments were performed when old type analogue TV transmitters were still in action so 25 Hz frame rate in modulation would have some coherence with ground borne 50 Hz vibrations and its sub –harmonics.      Similarly TETRA pulse modulation is close to 1/3 sub harmonic.  In these respects, the nature of the Hum perceived at the author’s residence definitely changed when the local analogue TV transmitters switched off.



Scenario   6


The Hum and Solar PV Systems 



Finally, it has been heard in the roof of a building with solar panels and a solar inverter also in line with a TETRA mast and mobile phone mast.   Solar panels resonate at 400 MHz and thus Tetra PULSES will appear in both the acoustic signature of the inverter because up to 3% of the demodulated radio frequency  can appear in the dc output of the solar panel  [26] and the magnetic environment and such panels have been shown capable of acting a planar antenna structures





Closing remarks


The author has also heard the Hum in other locations where perception may be caused be a combination of the above and similar effects.  For instance it has been heard in newly built house with large RSJS and close to a TV transmitter and no user services connected and it has been heard in a school classroom with a galvanised steel roof and line of sight with a TETRA mast and a mobile phone mast. 



It is not difficult to see how magneto acoustic elements could combine in these and a variety of odd situations to give rise to the Hum.



It is hoped this paper when read either  alone or with its references and the other work of the present author  finally demystifies a topic once almost confined to the realms of science fiction or the supernatural and will aid people to find the causes of and most importantly cures for their own personal Hums.     It is further hoped that one day in the very near future traditional LFN experts will embrace the findings of Oud [2] together with those revealed hereinabove and that there will be the necessary re-education of Local Government Environmental Health Officers who are often the public’s first line of defence on Hum matters and have to date either not been armed with sufficient knowledge to understand what they are up against and/or not had the necessary powers to act.   It is further hoped that the Law will soon also be changed to assist victims in this accord.    




The author wishes to thank his wife Gwyneth for valuable discussions during the preparation of this manuscript.





1.      David Baguely Audiologist at  (2009)

2.      Mirielle Oud, Congres Goluid, Trillingen, The Netherlands (2012)

3.      Journal Noise and Health (  Year : 2004  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 23  |  Page : 73-85 Effects of low frequency noise up to 100 Hz M, Schust).

4.        ‘Solving a case of the Hum’


5.       Effects of  low frequency noise on man – a case study - J Feldmann1, FA Pitten2)








12.  Vladimir N Bingi and Aleksandr V Savin 2003 Phys.-Usp. 46 259 doi:10.1070/PU2003v046n03ABEH001283


14.  H.Schiff 1991

15.  Jon Dobson and Paola Grassi ‘Magnetic Properties of Human Hippocampal Tissue: Evaluation of Artefact and Contamination Sources’ Brain Res. Bull. (1996) vol. 39: 255-259

16.  Bioelectromagnetics 23:278, 2002

17.  Istvan Bókkon and Vahid Salari, ‘Information Storing by biomagnetites

18.  István Bókkon,5&q=biomagnetite+conformon)

19.  Wertheimer1,*,David A. Savitz1,Ed Leeper2’ ‘ Childhood cancer indicators in relation to magnetic fields from ground current sources\

20.  CG Park, RA Helliwell - Science, 1978 -



23.  Xu and Wu et al; 

24.  M.L.Nave 1989, Considerations for application of electrical submersible pumps for underground coal mine dewatering, EEE Transactions on Industry Applications (impact factor: 1.66). 10/1989;

25.   Surface Displacements accompanying   the propagation of acoustic waves within an underground pipe Jette, A. N.; Parker, J. G. Journal of Sound and Vibration, Volume 69, Issue 2, p. 265-274.