The Hum Heard Around the World: Explained

You might have noticed how data loggers and other devices designed to collect and record environmental data have experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. As all major industries have experienced a move towards digitization, data loggers have arisen as a natural, superior alternative to traditional, analog data-recording instruments. It’s no surprise, considering that data loggers possess some obvious advantages.

They are less prone to human error since they can easily be automated. Data loggers are also a great deal more accurate than their analog predecessors. Importantly, data loggers can be used in conjunction with data analyzing softwares that help to glean insights from data that might seem unclear or ambiguous.

As a result of these many benefits, data loggers have become a staple in many industries including the food and beverage industry, the aerospace industry, the agricultural industry, the healthcare industry, and many others. They are often used to ensure that food, medical, and agricultural products are transported and stored at sufficiently low temperatures, safeguarding public health and preventing outbreaks of foodborne illness.

However, what even many data logger enthusiasts tend not to know of is a mysterious phenomenon that data loggers have been responsible for detecting known as “the hum.” Let’s explore what the hum is, some possible causes of it, and how data loggers have been involved in detecting it.

What is the Hum Phenomenon?

People from around the world have been reporting being deeply disturbed by a strange low-pitch humming noise that is very difficult or impossible for others to hear. Although many individuals describe the humming sound as rather subtle, most also claim that it can be exceedingly irritating and even debilitating as it continues indefinitely and interrupts almost every aspect of their life.

Most commonly, the hum is reported to be heard inside and not outdoors. Some of the most common problems reported by individuals who hear this humming noise more or less constantly from inside their homes include insomnia, irritability, stress, and even psychological disorders.

Some individuals, such as Dale Tutaj, originally out of San Francisco, have even moved states in order to escape this disruptive, persistent tone.  Tutaj reports that after having moved away from San Francisco to Wisconsin, he and his childrens’ quality of life have improved significantly, being relieved of insomnia and the stress that they all experienced for years in California.

Chasing the Hum

Before making the move, Tutaj corresponded extensively with health experts, EPA personnel, and auditory specialists, trying to find answers. An engineer himself, Tutaj also realized that he could track the sound.  He used a data logger to accurately track the sound, after connecting it to his water pipes, from which he believed the sound to be coming.

It was an inventive idea since data loggers are typically used to collect environmental data, often in tandem with cooling systems.

Similar stories of lives disturbed by the hum echo across the country and in Canada, and the phenomenology remains generally very consistent. Insomnia, stress, and psychological unrest are frequently reported. Now, psychologists and clinicians have reported treating many plagued by the hum, putting into question the theory that the hum is merely a mass delusion, and pointing to the fact that it, in fact, has a physical cause.

Theories and Ideas

Speculation around the hum is scattered and far-ranging. Many people dismiss hum sufferers as conspiracy theorists or as tinnitus sufferers who refuse to acknowledge their condition. If you haven’t heard of it, tinnitus is a condition that causes recurring, often constant ringing in the ears.

However, many cognitive-behavioral therapists believe that something else is at work when it comes to the hum, although there could be some very important similarities to tinnitus. That’s because, in many places in the world where the hum has been detected, its source has been found. Sources of this disturbing low-frequency sound have been discovered to be things as diverse as industrial equipment, high-pressure gas lines, electrical power lines, and wireless communication devices.

Although the pathology of these particular patients is caused by an external stimulus, at least in many cases, cognitive-behavioral therapists have also found that it can present in a similar way as tinnitus. In both cases, patients develop an emotional reaction to a sound, and this emotional response actually magnifies the volume of the sound from the patient’s point of view, which causes even more stress. This vicious cycle, caused by the fact that stimulus that provokes intense emotion becomes more perceptible, is a debilitating pattern in the case of both tinnitus and hum sufferers.

While therapists find out how to treat individuals who suffer from the effects of the hum, some investigative journalists have attempted to use data loggers to solve this healthcare challenge.

Cognitive-behavioral therapists have developed techniques to help patients overcome tinnitus and conditions developed as a result of the hum. Among the most popular methods is one called masquing, in which the noise that is causing discomfort is masked by a more pleasant noise, or even white noise, to lessen its intensity and negative effects. While therapists develop treatments for those who suffer from low-frequency humming noises that occur for different reasons around the world, journalists and data scientists have joined forces to discover its sources.

How Data Loggers Helped Track the Hum

In many circumstances, data loggers have been used to identify the source of low-frequency humming that can be so disturbing to a small minority of people.

Often, vibration data loggers can trace the source of low-frequency humming to water pipes, ventilation ducts, or other sources.

Data loggers, in this sense, have played an important but unexpected role in discovering many different causes of this strange phenomenon.

What are Data Loggers Used For?

Aside from this rather obscure use case, data loggers play a vital part in many different industries. Dickson explains here the data loggers’ bizarre role in helping to decode the hum might leave you wondering “what are data loggers used for?”

Accurate environmental data, including temperature, humidity, and differential pressure is needed to produce safe supply chains, refrigerate food products, and store sensitive medical products.

Data loggers are also used extensively in the IT world to make sure that servers, hardware, and IT infrastructure are kept at cool enough temperatures to avoid overheating.

The Hum Explained

Explanations for the hum are varied and diverse. In the US region of Kokomo, for example, the hum was found to be coming from two industrial plants in the region.

A hum produced in Bristol, England was eventually blamed on traffic and a nearby factory.

In another case, a ventilation system caused air to rush past a round surface that produced a low-frequency hum that plagued the apartment’s tenant for years.

As it turns out, there is not simply one clear explanation for the hum. Instead, there are many.

In conclusion, the hum is an extremely strange phenomenon that has perplexed individuals, journalists, and experts around the world. We are still finding out more about why super low-frequency sounds are detectable and disturbing to a small minority of the population. Data loggers are proving extremely helpful for this purpose, along with their many other more mainstream uses in various industries.