The Hum- A Description

The Hum has a characteristic sound described either as an idling Diesel engine or the drone of a distant aircraft
The Hum is not constant in intensity, periods of high levels have been noted during the early hours, at weekends and bank holidays, the period between Christmas and the New Year is notorious for high levels.

The intensity of the Hum is invariably greater indoors than out and greater upstairs than down. The Hum can also be "heard" in a stationary car with the engine switched off.

The use of sound proofing, ear-plugs or ear protectors are ineffective, in fact, by eliminating extraneous noise, they only serve to intensify the perceived Hum level.

The Hum is very selective, approximately 5% of the population "hear" the noise, almost all are aged 50 or over, and 70% of these are women.

The physical effects which accompany the Hum vary both in type and intensity and depend a great deal on the individual.
The most common effects reported are:

* Insomnia        * Difficulty concentrating   * Headache      * Burning Skin   
* Nausea          * Fatigue                    * Tension       * Pins and Needles  
* Muscle Spasms   * Heart Palpitations         * Eye Strain    * Ear Pressure

If you find that in the household you are the only one that can "hear" the noise and it always decreases when you go outdoors, than it is a pretty safe bet that you are affected by the Hum.

Rating Scale this scale was derived and posted with kind permission of the German Hum site IGZAB

0 = no hum audible
1 = moderate. The hum is constantly audible, but only as a quiet, soft background noise. Sleeping is not affected.
2 = disruptive. The hum is apparent even above other noises, becoming annoying and irritating. Any of the following may also be experienced: a rumbling noise, pressure on the ears, inability to concentrate, sleep disruptions or difficulty falling asleep. If the affected person is attempting to work in a quiet situation, the hum makes it difficult to think.
3 = very disruptive. Volume and / or vibrations (see note below) at a higher level. Affected person feels a compulsion to seek the outdoors to escape the noise, and may become aggressive. If sleeping, then the periods of being unable to sleep exceed the periods of sleep. The affected person is therefore fatigued during the day.
4 = physical (bodily) symptoms. The noise is so insistent that thinking is prevented. The affected person is left with only the wish that the noise would stop! Symptoms such as the following may be experienced: dizziness, a feeling of pressure in the chest, perspiration, sleeplessness, uncontrolled twitching of the eyes, muscular vibrations or cramps, uncontrolled muscular twitches, a stiff neck, tension headache, irregular pulse, muscle and joint pain. The associated tension and excitation results in exhaustion. Vibrations (see below) are experienced at an intense level and perhaps in combination with a rumbling.
5 = hardly bearable. The hum is overpowering and survival is the only remaining thought. The affected person retreats into a foetal position in reaction to the onslaught of sensory perception. The symptoms described for level 4 may be combined with the feeling of the body being subjected to electrical current

It is interesting to note that of a list of 20 symptoms prepared by an organization researching Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME) , 16 of these symptoms could be equally applied to those suffering from the HUM

A small sample of press cuttings collected from British newspapers over the past 23 years:


Extracts from articles in British newspaper collected over the past 23 years

Sunday Telegraph May 2001
Unidentified low frequency humming continues to be a problem around the country. A throbbing or whirring sound known as the Largs hum has plagued coastal towns in Strathclyde for more than 20 years causing discomfort, nausea and nosebleeds.
You are lucky if you can get an hourís sleep at night said Georgie Hyslop, a former Royal Air Force radar operative, who has suffered from the hum every day for a year. It gives you headaches, your ears pop, you feel your nose bursting and your chest crushing in.

The Herald March 2001
Mystery hum forces couple out of home.
An Aberdeenshire couple have become the latest victims of the mysterious phenomenon known as the low frequency hum. It is a nuisance so bad that at times they have been forced to sleep in their car and take refuse in hotels. The hum at Whitehills, near Banff, a continuous or whirr accompanied by high pressure in the head, is the second example of the phenomenon in Scotland, after the so called Largs Hum in Ayrshire which has baffled scientists for 20 years.

Manchester Evening News February 2001
Insomniac Barry Fletcher is not the only person being disturbed by mysterious night-time noises. People from all over the region contacted us after we told of 47 year old taxi driverís misery. Readers in Denton, Poynton, Aston, Beswick, Broughton Park, Stockton, Heaton Norris, Prestwich, Droysden and Bury all complained of a low-pitched "whirring" noise.

The Herald January 2001
The mysterious throbbing or whirring sound, described as a low frequency hum causes sickness and nosebleeds and has baffled scientists for more than 20 years. Now the Scottish Executive is being urged to investigate a phenomenon which experts believe is found in many parts of the UK and across the world. In Scotland, the main focus is on the Ayrshire town of Largs. Residents claim the Largs Hum first identified in the 1980ís, causes headaches and chest pains, as well as nausea and nosebleeds, Numerous potential sources have been identified and examined but there is still no conclusive outcome.

The Express December 1998
Scientists have been called in to investigate reports of a high-pitched whining noise that only women can hear. A dozen separate cases have logged by environmental health officers in Warrington, Cheshire, over recent months. In each one, women have complained about a mysterious droning sound which keeps them awake, while men living in the same houses say they canít hear a thing. Male investigators from the council noise abatement department have also drawn a blank after being sent to locate the noise.

Eleven other women living within a two mile radius have made similar complaints which are being investigated by the councilís chief environmental health officer Andrew Gilbert. He admits the outbreak has puzzled experts but he believes it could be because women spend more time in their homes. Mr Gilbert said "They are definitely hearing something, whether it is actual or perceived we have to apply objective analysis to find out where it is coming from. Weíve not closed the file yet."

Bristol Evening Post Nov. 1998
Retired Rolls Royce electronics engineer James Hall killed himself after worrying about a phantom buzzing noise, a Bristol Inquest heard. Mr Hall was found with a plastic bag over his head.

A pensioner who became obsessed with a buzzing noise in her flat took an overdose and was found dead in the city docks a Bristol Inquest heard. In her flat a notepad was found on which she had written letters to her friends and family. One said, Sorry to go like this. You know what it has been like with the noise, Don't let them put in the papers it was suicide.

A man has appeared in court for refusing to pay his council tax as a protest at the lack of action over the so-called Bristol Hum. Bob Lewis says his life has been made a misery for years by the mysterious noise.

The Independent June 1994
When his electrical engineering job as transferred to Peterborough, Hugh Witherington leapt at the chance to get out of London. But only months after moving out of the capital to a cottage in the Hertfordshire countryside, Mr Witherington, then 33, was woken in the small hours of the morning by a low, droning hum. "It sounded like a lorry had stopped outside my window and left its engine idling" he explains.

He got up to investigate, but found nothing close to the house. Unable to sleep,he drove through the surrounding countryside searching for the cause of the noise. That was 16 years ago. Since then Mr Witherington has been plagued almost continuously by the intrusive hum, and is still trying to establish its source. "No amount of exposure ever gets me used to it. It stops me from thinking, even now I cannot accept it" he says.

Birmingham Evening Post July 1993
A distraught Birmingham husband today told how his wife killed herself because of a noise in her ears. The body of Mrs Hewlett was found in a bath in her hotel room yeasterday. It is thought she had died of a massive drugs overdose. Mr Hewlett added "The noises were particularly bad at night when there were no distractions. It was a constant buzzing in her ears" "I came home on Monday and sheíd packed a suitcase and left a note to me saying, Iím sorry, but I cant take it any more"

The Independent March 1992
The search is on for the source of a low frequency hum that is ruining the lives of thousands of people in Britain. "Hummers", the name given to people who hear a low, droning sound have been recognised at last as having a legitimate problem. A ten year fight to persuade the utilities and government departments that they are not imagining the hum has paid off. The Department of the Environment is funding a two year study in which scientists will try to find the source of the hum for 25 sufferers. The department acknowledges that some 500 new cases are reported each year.

Daily Star March 1990
We asked you to give us a buzz if you were one of the tens of thousands of long-suffering people who are tortured and tormented by The Hum, and you jammed our phone lines. From the length and breadth of the country you called us about the sinister noise that brings misery to 100,000 people in Britain every day. Just as our expert claimed, you laid the blame for the painful and agonising noise that can drive people to the edge of suicide on man and machine in imperfect harmony. Here are some of the Hundreds of people who suffered in silence until they called us. All of them have been told by their doctors they have nothing wrong with their hearing.

Bristol Evening Post January 1990
An organisation has been formed to investigate the Bristol Hum, the mysterious droning noise that has baffled the scientific world for years. Some Bristol people claim that they can detect a background low frequency noise which persists for 24 hours a day. But other people living in the same homes can hear nothing. The hum has been the subject of complaints since the late 1970's and now it has been discovered that it can be heard by people in many other parts of Britain. The organisation has been formed to get more research carried out. Mrs Elizabeth Griggs of Hyatt Close, Shepton Mallet, was appointed secretary when the Low Frequency Noise Sufferers Association held its first meeting in London.

Yorkshire Evening Press November 1987
A Strensall couple are ready to give up on their new bungalow if a mystery noise cannot be traced. Both complain of sleepless nights as experts try in vain to isolate a persistent hum that has plagued them for months. Environmental health offers who have investigated the noise, which is also affecting some properties at Haxby and Huntington, report they have heard nothing. Ryedale chief environmental health officer Gordon Stephenson said "Instruments used by a consultant called in to give advice detected a noise at 50 Hz but he could not identify the source.

The Star November 1987
Things are humming in Haxby but to date no-one is quite sure exactly what. Residents are complaining of a low frequency sound that remains a complete mystery to the experts. According to Ryedaleís Environmental Health Department the noise can only be heard by residents themselves inside houses. It has not so far been audible to the several members of the department who have visited the properties and on our basis equipment is not capable of detecting this type of sound". This type of complaint was something of a national phenomenon which had troubled other authorities and has been followed by research at university and polytechnic level".

News of the World February 1979
From all over Britain comes the sound of humming. And 1,400 of you have written to tell us of the baffling noise known as The Hum. For ten years scientists have been investigating it, but still no one can explain what causes it and why some members of a family hear it while others don't. The Hum sounds like a distant diesel engine. Some readers thought they were going mad because they could hear the Hum while others couldn't.

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