I have been dipping in and out of this one over the years....

Seems the hum was first brought to public attention in 1992 by Taos residents who claimed they'd been hearing it for more than a year. Nine of 12 locals contacted by the paper said they'd heard it. The hum was said to sound like the distant idling of a diesel truck (a low rumble, in other words), and was very annoying. Theories about its source included "UFOs, spiritual rebirth, faulty sewage plants, secret underground mining, high-voltage power lines, and weapons testing."source

In the 1990's the consistent low-frequency hum began to be reported by some, but not all residents of Taos, New Mexico. A variety of theories continue to be put forward as to its origin, and of course, numerous unverified amateur recordings of widely varying quality exist, but as yet it remains unexplained (at least to my current googlings).

The essential element that defines the Hum is what is perceived as a persistent low-frequency sound, often described as being comparable to that of a distant diesel engine idling, or to some similar low-pitched sound for which obvious sources (e.g., household appliances, traffic noise, etc.) have been ruled out. Wiki

I did however find an appropriately skeptical-ish viewpoint from The Straight Dope:

A survey of 7,000 Taos-area residents found that only 2 percent had heard it. You're thinking: you could probably find 2 percent who think they've got microchips implanted in their brains! Hmm. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Sorry, thought I heard something.

Anyway, UNM hearing researcher James Kelly tells me they've done enough investigation to know this is more than just wacky Taos residents eating funny mushrooms. For one thing, tests show all the hum hearers hear pretty much the same low-frequency tone, making it unlikely they're imagining it or suffering from ordinary tinnitus. Research continues. Sure, it's all in their heads. The question is, what's "it"?

- Is this a case of media hype, mass delusion, or is it a real, scientifically explainable phenomenon?


1 Answer 1


It's a scientifically studied, yet not fully explained phenomenon which affects around 2% of population around specific foci. There's is a good review of studies on low frequency noise which dedicates a full chapter to "The HUM" and its effect

  1. The HUM

11.1 Occurrence.

The Hum is the name given to a low frequency noise which is causing persistent complaints, but often cannot be traced to a single, or any, source. If a source is located, the problem moves into the category of engineering noise control and is no longer "the Hum", although there may be a long period between first complaint and final solution. The Hum is widespread, affecting scattered individuals, but periodically a Hum focus arises where there are multiple complaints within a town or area. There has been the Bristol Hum (England), Largs Hum (Scotland), Copenhagen Hum (Denmark), Vancouver Hum (Canada), Taos Hum (New Mexico USA), Kokomo Hum (Indiana USA) etc. A feature of these Hums is that they have been publicised in local and national press, so gathering a momentum which otherwise might not have occurred.

A Review of Published Research on Low Frequency Noise and its Effects -- Report for Defra by Dr Geoff Leventhall

So to answer your question: yes, there is a scientifically known phenomenon called the "Taos HUM", but it is not necessarily a real sound -- it is only measured by its health consequences, which are certainly real.

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