May
25
2009

Just because the humming in your head is also real doesn’t mean you should stop worrying.

Maybe you'll get to like the hum: and maybe not.
Maybe you'll get to like the hum: and maybe not.Courtesy LunaDiRimmel
The hum… if you can’t hear it already, you will now, because now you know about it. And once you hear it, it will never go away. Never.

Before I go any further:
So… I hear that there’s an X-Files episode out there that’s all about this. If this is truly the case, I’d like all of you X-Filiacs reading to just bite down on your autographed Gillian Anderson coasters, and grip your David Duchovny brand Wholesome Stress Release Balls, and just deal with it for a few minutes. (So many people read my posts, I’m sure there must be at least a few thousand die-hard X-Files fans among them.) Are y’all occupied? Think about bees.

Now, for the rest of you (us): The hum.

“The hum” is a sound so low that for most of us it’s usually beyond the southern end of perception. But some people hear it. And they can’t stop hearing it. It’s a deep rumbling tone, and for some people it’s only apparent in certain locations, but to others it can be heard just about everywhere. All the time. The hum has driven people to punch through brick walls, and bite the heads off of gear shifters, because it just won’t stop. (I’m assuming about the brick punching and car biting.)

Scientists believe that the hum is actually a real sound, unlike the tones perceived by people suffering from tinnitus. Tinnitus is an inner ear disorder (and maybe sometimes psychological, which causes people to hear sounds when there’s nothing actually making that sound. The perceived sounds vary, but, in general, it’s like when your ears start ringing for no apparent reason, except that the ringing might never stop.

The hum, on the other hand, is usually perceived as something like the sound of an idling diesel engine. But while there are folks who believe that the hum is actually caused by aliens, and sinister government X-Filesy activity, most scientists believe that the hum is a combination of real sounds (not that aliens wouldn’t make real sounds, but, um…) and a sort of unintended fixation on the part of the hearer.

As this article on the BBC points out, the hum might be caused by the actual vibrations of a nearby factory, or a constantly running piece of equipment in your house, like a fan or the refrigerator. While the sound is so low and quiet that it’s usually barely on the edge of perception, if someone hears it, and focuses on it, they may not be able to make themselves stop hearing it. Once it’s on their minds, they think about how they can’t stop hearing it, and they become focused on the sound, and without intending to they end up adjusting their internal “gain” to notice that sound. Sort of like if you’re trying to be sneaky, the sounds you make seem very loud, or if you’re trying to catch someone else being sneaky, the sound of someone unlocking the front door after curfew is going to be very noticeable.

I just hope none of y’all ever notice the hum. Because what if you can’t stop thinking about it? It’ll always be there… So don’t sit back and try to hear it right now. Don’t even think about that continuous rumbling sound that might be flooding through our town now and forever.

(Oh, if you’re wondering what to listen for, the BBC article has a simulated sample of the hum that you can check out.)

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

GillianMe's picture
GillianMe says:

Firstly, i thought this article was extremely interesting. I enjoy reading actual stories about things that have been explored on fictional tv shows.

Secondly, I am a massive X-Files Fan but you should know that being a hardcore XPhile doesn't mean that we consider everything remotely related to it as nasty or derogative. In fact many XFiles episodes are inspired by actual strange phenomena and accounts of alleged "real" events. There is "truth" in the show that claims that "the truth is out there.

Thanks for u'r time

posted on Tue, 05/26/2009 - 9:44am
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

"XPhile" ... I like it. I might still stick with "X-filiac," though.

But, no, I never thought y'all would be offended by a little extra information on "the hum"—I just figured Fox had pretty much brought you up to speed already, and everything else would be redundant.

posted on Tue, 05/26/2009 - 10:32am
mdr's picture
mdr says:

Strange, but I couldn't hear the BBC sample hum over the hum in my head.

posted on Tue, 05/26/2009 - 10:07am
Eastbay's picture
Eastbay says:

Has anyone got a lead on the group who calls themselves "hearers" ? I would like to contact them but couldn't find anything on Google except this article, which was appreciated.

posted on Sun, 01/24/2010 - 5:59pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i hear this hum sound , sounds like one of those old black and white sci fi movie flying saucers hovering overtop of my head . strange it is worse in rooms of houses and quiet areas

posted on Tue, 04/24/2012 - 7:49am

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