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18061Mysterious Hum Driving People Crazy Around The World

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    Jul 26 10:42 PM
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      By Marc Lallanilla
      July 26, 2013



      It creeps in slowly in the dark of night, and once inside, it almost
      never goes away.

      It's known as the Hum, a steady, droning sound that's heard in places as
      disparate as Taos, N.M.; Bristol, England; and Largs, Scotland.

      But what causes the Hum, and why it only affects a small percentage of
      the population in certain areas, remain a mystery, despite a number of
      scientific investigations.

      Reports started trickling in during the 1950s from people who had never
      heard anything unusual before; suddenly, they were bedeviled by an
      annoying, low-frequency humming, throbbing or rumbling sound.

      The cases seem to have several factors in common: Generally, the Hum is
      only heard indoors, and it's louder at night than during the day. It's
      also more common in rural or suburban environments; reports of a hum are
      rare in urban areas, probably because of the steady background noise in
      crowded cities.

      Who hears the Hum?

      Only about 2 percent of the people living in any given Hum-prone area
      can hear the sound, and most of them are ages 55 to 70, according to a
      2003 study by acoustical consultant Geoff Leventhall of Surrey, England.

      Most of the people who hear the Hum (sometimes referred to as "hearers"
      or "hummers") describe the sound as similar to a diesel engine idling
      nearby. And the Hum has driven virtually every one of them to the point
      of despair. [Video: Listen to 6 Spooky Sounds]

      "It's a kind of torture; sometimes, you just want to scream," retiree
      Katie Jacques of Leeds, England, told the BBC. Leeds is one of several
      places in Great Britain where the Hum has recently appeared.

      "It's worst at night," Jacques said. "It's hard to get off to sleep
      because I hear this throbbing sound in the background. … You're tossing
      and turning, and you get more and more agitated about it."

      Being dismissed as crackpots or whiners only exacerbates the distress
      for these complainants, most of whom have perfectly normal hearing.
      Sufferers complain of headaches, nausea, dizziness, nosebleeds and sleep
      disturbances. At least one suicide in the United Kingdom has been blamed
      on the Hum, the BBC reports.

      The Hum zones

      Bristol, England, was one of the first places on Earth where the Hum was
      reported. In the 1970s, about 800 people in the coastal city reported
      hearing a steady thrumming sound, which was eventually blamed on
      vehicular traffic and local factories working 24-hour shifts.

      Another famous hum occurs near Taos, N.M. Starting in spring 1991,
      residents of the area complained of a low-level rumbling noise. A team
      of researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory, the University of
      New Mexico, Sandia National Laboratories and other regional experts were
      unable to identify the source of the sound.

      Windsor, Ontario, is another Hum hotspot. Researchers from the
      University of Windsor and Western University in London, Ontario, were
      recently given a grant to analyze the Windsor Hum and determine its cause.

      Researchers also have been investigating the Hum in Bondi, a seaside
      area of Sydney, Australia, for several years, to no avail. "It sends
      people around here crazy -- all you can do is put music on to block it
      out. Some people leave fans on," one resident told the Daily Telegraph.

      Back in the United States, the Kokomo Hum was isolated in a 2003 study
      financed by the Indiana city's municipal government. The investigation
      revealed that two industrial sites -- one a Daimler Chrysler plant --
      were producing noise at specific frequencies. Despite noise-abatement
      measures, some residents continue to complain of the Hum.

      What causes the Hum?

      Most researchers investigating the Hum express some confidence that the
      phenomenon is real, and not the result of mass hysteria or hearers'
      hypochondria (or extraterrestrials beaming signals to Earth from their

      As in the case of the Kokomo Hum, industrial equipment is usually the
      first suspected source of the Hum. In one instance, Leventhall was able
      to trace the noise to a neighboring building's central heating unit.

      Other suspected sources include high-pressure gas lines, electrical
      power lines and wireless communication devices. But only in a few cases
      has a Hum been linked to a mechanical or electrical source.

      There's some speculation that the Hum could be the result of
      low-frequency electromagnetic radiation, audible only to some people.
      And there are verified cases in which individuals have particular
      sensitivities to signals outside the normal range of human hearing.

      Medical experts are quick to point out that tinnitus (the perception of
      sound when no external noise is present) is a likely cause, but repeated
      testing has found that many hearers have normal hearing and no
      occurrences of tinnitus.

      Environmental factors have also been blamed, including seismic activity
      such as microseisms -- very faint, low-frequency earth tremors that can
      be generated by the action of ocean waves.

      Other hypotheses, including military experiments and submarine
      communications, have yet to bear any fruit. For now, hearers of the Hum
      have to resort to white-noise machines and other devices to reduce or
      eliminate the annoying noise.

      Leventhall, who recommends that some hearers turn to
      cognitive-behavioral therapy to relieve the symptoms caused by the Hum,
      isn't confident that the puzzle will be solved anytime soon.

      "It's been a mystery for 40 years, so it may well remain one for a lot
      longer," Leventhall told the BBC.



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