The Hum

(aka the Bristol Hum, the Taos Hum, the Hueytown Hum, the Largs Hum, Kokomo Hum et al)

New Year 2006-7, and while the rest of the world is celebrating, I'm sobbing because I can't stop hearing a humming noise. It had been driving me crazy for days. I've heard it before, but never so constantly: 24-hours a day since Christmas Eve. I'd tried switching off the electricity at the mains and I could still hear it. It isn't coming from outside the house; it isn't coming from the walls; it seems to be in the very air itself; and it is amplified by my bed, so sleeping is a nightmare.

Most of the time the Hum sounds to me rather like distant traffic or an approaching aeroplane. When it sounds this way I can cope with it, I can put it to the back of my mind, but sometimes it has a cyclical element - and it is this that interrupts my whole life.

My husband can't hear it, but his hearing isn't 100% anyway. My daughter thinks she sometimes hears a gentle background hum that doesn't bother her at all. Occasionally, my son can hear it, generally at night when there are no other distractions. My friend, Elaine, can't hear it, but I can hear it in her house!

It isn't tinnitus. I have that, and tinnitus is definitely an internal noise. I have always found my tinnitus quite comforting, but that's probably because mine is a gentle non-invasive susurration. The Hum is definitely external to me. How do I know? I'm not alone!

It is a worldwide phenomenon, though not everyone can hear it, and it isn't everywhere. Nobody knows what causes it (or nobody is saying!), though theories abound. A disquieting number of sufferers appear to be fruitcakes, though that could be a statistical likelihood or a result of the Hum driving the sufferer round the bend.

Speaking of statistics, I have at least one issue with them: Between 2%-10% of the population hear the Hum. Sufferers tend to be women over fifty. So women over fifty― not the most retiring of age-groups ― must make up a massive proportion of the collected band of Hummers (as we are known), so why haven't we heard that particular voice? Would you like me to put that further into perspective? Everyone has a few dyslexics (6% of population) in their address book, so why don't we all know any number of Hummers?

I'm far too new to the concept of the Hum to have much to say, but having read some of the research on the subject, a few things about me that might add to the general lot of information on the subject:

― I have always had preternaturally good hearing anyway, which hasn't gone away with age (born 1958).

― I find it very difficult to blank out irritating extraneous noises to an extent that doesn't seem to bother other people.

― I often have sleep paralysis/lucid dreams. These terrifying episodes are believed to be a result of pressure on the amygdala (just don't sleep on your back!) Often, sufferers believe they are being abducted by aliens - they're not!

How I'm coping?

As time has passed, I notice the Hum less and less. I'm aware of it when it is around, but I usually have to actively focus on it. Sitting in the corner of my bedroom at my computer, I can barely hear the Hum at all. Wahoo! Maybe the almost silent hum of the processor knocks out the Hum.

When the Hum is humming at night, I listen to podcasts on my trusty Shuffle (can I recommend Frank Skinner, Fletch & Vaughan, Danny Baker and Freakanomics, to name a few).

During the day, if I'm at home, I listen to my MP3 player AND on low volume have radio, music or TV on in the background.