• The Worldwide Hum – Delusion or Reality?

News & Views

The Worldwide Hum – Delusion or Reality?

Aug 03 2016

Surely, at some point in their life, everybody has heard a random inexplicable humming noise. Some people just ignore it, some get really frustrated, and some write a paper examining the history and different theories surrounding the hum to try and find an answer.

In 2004, geoscientist David Deming wrote an article for the Journal of Scientific Exploration, titled ‘The Hum: An Anomalous Sound Heard Around the World’. He found that the Hum is actually higher in pitch than the technical definition of a ‘hum’ – “a continuous sound that is low in tone”.

In terms of history, the first documentation of the hum was in Bristol, England, around 50 years ago. This immediately dismisses the common idea that the Hum is caused by mobile phone towers, as mobile phones weren’t invented in the 1960s. Another popular theory is that the humming is caused by the electric grid. Deming explains that this kind of frequency would easily be blocked by the surrounding metal enclosures.


So could the Hum be a complete delusion? The power of suggestion could cause people to imagine a hum after hearing about it from that someone else. Historical examples of delusion have given us a couple of criteria for what can be classed as a delusion:

  • The delusion results from psychological or social pressures
  • The delusion has a psychological or social benefit

Using this, Deming states that it is unlikely that the hum is a delusion, as it pretty much opposes these criteria. People who experience the Hum risk mockery when describing it, so there clearly isn’t a benefit. With regards to social and psychological pressures, people are actually keen to stop or escape the noise.

So what could it be?

The only possible explanation for the Hum is that it’s a form of electromagnetic radiation that some people interpret as sound. Even though the source is unknown, it seems there are some sort of electromagnetic waves travelling through the air and some people’s ears are detecting it.

Deming suggests that there may be an experiment that would determine whether the Hum is electromagnetic or acoustic in origin. Experiments on radiation can reveal a lot about the source of the sound. The same goes for light sources. ‘Light Source Characterisation in Life Sciences’ looks at how light sources can be analysed, measured and characterised and how it is an important tool in life sciences.

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