What’s That Bloody Noise?
In the August 2020 edition of The Beast we published a letter from a Randwick resident, Jonathan, about a “high pitched, continuous tone” he had been hearing since he moved here on May 1. We subsequently received so many responses to Jonathan’s letter from concerned residents that we decided to investigate further.
The noise is described by other Eastern Suburbs locals as “a low-level noise, like a bunch of trucks idling”, a “white noise”, a “siren-like buzz” and something that is “quite loud”.
We received letters from people in Coogee, Bronte, Randwick and Bondi, confirming that they too hear this strange sound. Residents also confirmed that they had been able to hear the noise for some time, some saying as early as the 1970s.
The Daily Telegraph actually published an article on a mysterious noise in Bondi back in 2009, when Waverley Council voted to ask the Environment Protection Authority to investigate, but eleven years on and the hum remains.
Strangely, the Eastern Suburbs is not the only place in the world to hear this odd, ambient noise. A similar phenomenon was reported in Bristol, England, in the 1970s. Since then, residents of Taos, New Mexico, in the United States, Windsor, Ontario, in Canada, Largs in Scotland and Auckland, New Zealand, have reported hearing a mysterious “hum”.
In most cities it is estimated that around two per cent of the population can hear the noise, and it is unlikely to be tinnitus as it is often described as being low frequency. People who can hear it also claim to be able to move toward and away from the source and perceive a difference in the intensity of the hum.
Some potential explanations of the noise that have been investigated over the years include radio towers, industrial activity, wifi, testing of military weapons, restless Native American spirits trying to communicate, UFOs, electricity pylons, mass hysteria, armies of mating fish and the sound of your body movements (called somatasounds).
However, all of these theories remain unproven and those who hear the hum are yet to find any relief. People who hear this noise in other areas say it is not just irritating but has had serious effects on their health. Some of the local readers who wrote in to The Beast said that they need earplugs to get to sleep and that the noise has even caused insomnia. In other parts of the world people have reported experiencing stress, anxiety and depression as a result.
One popular theory is that the hum is caused by minute vibrations in the earth as waves pass over the ocean floor. This would make perfect sense to those living next to the ocean in the Eastern Suburbs but does not explain the phenomenon occurring in landlocked cities like Taos, New Mexico, in the United States.
Jonathan’s 5G network theory is ultimately unlikely as reports from Sydney and around the world trace it back to the early 1970s. However, the hum may be linked to a form of technology that was newly introduced to our lives around that time. We should note here that mobile phones were introduced to Australia in 1973 and microwaves arived on our shores in 1967.
The proportion of the population who hear the hum may also suffer from hyperacusis, a condition that makes a person very sensitive to certain frequencies of sound. So, whatever the source of the hum, it may only be heard by people who experience this condition.
While we may not find a solution to this mystery any time soon, it’s comforting to know that it’s not just people in the east experiencing it. If you’ve heard the hum, you can contact The Beast or visit thehum.info to include your experience in a global research project trying to find its causes.