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March 14, 2010 12:27 PM 3/14/10

Does anybody know what the Taos Hum is? If not I suggest you go look it up right now.

My wife and I purchased our house in 2008 on Feb 28th of that year. Since moving in I’ve often been woken up around 3:30 am every morning to the sound of what I assumed was a diesel-electric train at a distance idling at a high RPM.

Any trains are at least a couple of miles away so I could never figure out where the sound was coming from. I went so far as to turn off all devices in the house one night while everyone was asleep (sorry honey!) to no avail. The noise was actually louder in the house rather than outside.

So I’ve been living with this thing for two years without having a clue and suffering from insomnia and a number of other things. More than once the sound has prevented me from sleeping. Worse yet my wife can’t hear it. (In the last few months it seems to have gotten a little louder.)

Today I finally found out I’m not alone.

I was looking through a Slashdot article on the robotic sub ABE that sank and someone posted a link to a Wikipedia article about The Bloop:


That’s a sound heard under the ocean that is unexplained. That led me to the important link about The Hum:


This is a repeating low-frequency sound heard all over the world in different places that sounds among other things...like a diesel engine in the distance.

This explains quite a bit and makes me feel so much less like I’m crazy than before. Here’s another tidbit - my daughter often wakes up around 3:30 am as well. I’m betting she hears it too. (Questioning her is dubious because of her autism but she has said yes.)

And I can even theorize why I never heard it other places we’ve lived. The last house was on a hill of sand. More than enough to alter the sound. My mother’s house was on a main street so there was almost always some street traffic. The house before that had noisy neighbors and barking dogs. Before that was the city of Chicago and no city is ever completely quiet.

There are numerous theories as to why it exists, my favorite is the newest one - deep ocean waves hitting continental shelf outcroppings, but just the fact that there is a significant number of people in different places experiencing this takes a great load off my mind.

Not. Crazy.

Which since I’ve been under the stress of being unemployed and many many other things for years is a real concern for me.

Now I just need to invent a way to counter the problem. Earplugs don’t work, the small air filter does cause some white noise but still doesn’t drown it out, I“m betting noise canceling headphones won’t help either. I just hope I can find a solution.

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( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 15th, 2010 05:50 am (UTC)
Perhaps Mom can help here. McHenry county is located on an essentially gravel/sand base, which is not good in an earthquake as it liquifies and then slides. Maybe you should check into the geophysics of the movement of the land under you, are you and Brianna sensitive to the sound waves of underground fault movement? Perhaps it is the electrical wires on the poles reverberating in your house in some odd way? I would check to see if there is a geophysical fault close by that would be sending out vibrations that would effect you hearing like sound waves. Also, as far as you are from the lake, there are noises associated with being in the Great Lakes area(I can't remember if it is the Great Lakes Basin)since seches are responsible for some noises.
Mar. 15th, 2010 11:24 am (UTC)
Re: Hum?
I've spent two years checking local sources and have found nothing to satisfactorily explain the phenomenon. It's a constant sound and not tied to any particular source. I can even hear it during the day when it's quiet but not when I'm in some other location.

Believe me - I've look at _all_ sorts of sources and nothing fits. They either turn off at some time, don't have the right vibrational properties, or aren't able to generate the frequencies involved.
Mar. 15th, 2010 08:00 am (UTC)
I have heard various kinds of humming sounds, in different locations, ever since I was in my early teens. When I was growing up on Long Island, up until I got married and moved out at age 25, I would often hear a hum - usually late at night or very early in the morning, when there were no other local sounds to interfere. This was always outdoors, and it sounded to me like a medium-sized multi-engine turboprop plane idling, or sometimes just like a generalized and diffuse "brown noise". It seemed to be coming from the horizon, from all directions at once. After a while I decided I was probably hearing very distant traffic sounds (from a highway several miles away), diffused by the distance. It was very quiet, and I couldn't hear it indoors.

I've heard variations on the same sort of thing in different places since then. Some of the places I've lived never got quiet enough for me to tell if there was any hum, but in others, I'd get the same kind of sound - again, outdoors, late night or early morning. And in every place it still could be explained as traffic noise from major roads a number of miles away.

It occurs to me that I've never heard it in the woods, only in somewhat built-up areas; if it's not far-off traffic, it still seems to be related to technology somehow.

I can't hear any hum here. If I go outside when it's otherwise quiet, I hear the surf from the Atlantic Ocean, a little over a mile away. It's quite unmistakeably surf, and if there's any hum around here, the ocean sounds drown it out.

Edited at 2010-03-15 08:02 am (UTC)
Mar. 15th, 2010 11:26 am (UTC)
I might buy the technology thing but there are so many other potential answers it's not funny.

I've eliminated as many local ones as I can pin down but the sound is still constant and still remains. :-(
Mar. 16th, 2010 07:14 pm (UTC)
The only reason I suspect it of being technology-related is that I've never heard it out in the middle of nowhere, only in more or less suburban/exurban areas. When I was a teenager, the first time I paid attention to it (just before dawn in midsummer), I thought it must be a turboprop plane idling on the ground over at Grumman Aircraft, which was maybe ten miles away - my dad worked there. I listened for several minutes, but it didn't change, and the "plane" didn't take off. After that I heard it just about any time there wasn't anything else to hear... of course, I had taught myself to listen for it.

My best guess now would be something like the "seashell" effect; some quality of the atmosphere, combined echoes from buildings in different directions, something taking low-level ambient sounds and blurring them into a pervasive drone. Your guess is as good as mine...
Mar. 16th, 2010 04:02 am (UTC)
I remember watching a documentary about this kind of phenomena happening in one particular location in the US. I wish I remembered more info to track it down with, but at least you now know it's something that's actually documented.
Mar. 16th, 2010 04:15 am (UTC)
I'm awake and listening to it right now. It's just maddening. :-(

But yeah at least I know it's not just in my head.
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