Tracking the hum-drum—Ho-hum


Sometimes in bed at night I hear a steady hum at a pitch of B flat. I figure it’s the laminated tin roof, and maybe the wind is enabling its vibration. Then again, maybe it’s the mysterious Taos New Mexico Hum, and it’s moving south. Forget it. My hum is just my roof.    

The Taos Hum is said to begin abruptly and continue without stop, and can cause insomnia, dizziness, pressure on the ears, headaches, and nosebleeds. It sounds like a diesel engine idling in the distance, or a steady, pulsating sound, low on the frequency scale, between 30 and 80 hertz. Something like your snoring, only steadier.
The Hum was featured on TV’s Unsolved Mysteries, and in 1993 Congress commissioned several scientists to study it. They found it was heard not only by about 2 percent of Taos residents, but by people around the world. They ruled out tinnitus, as well as any possible external causes, as it was not detectable by microphones or VLF antennae.
UNM’s Joe Mullins said that as a nation, “we’re slowly building up the background of electronic noise,” using more cordless and electromagnetic technologies. Drs. Nick Begich and Patrick Flanagan followed up on this as a possible cause of the Hum, knowing that the skin also transmits information to the brain, bypassing the ears, and Flanagan had invented special technology to detect those sounds. But they never determined the cause of the Hum.
I figure there’s nothing special about the Taos Hum. A lot of people there probably like a certain song, but they don’t know the words. What else are they going to do but hum?
Also, the Hum is somewhat similar to the so-called Schumann resonances, which are peaks in the low frequency portion of the Earth’s electromagnetic field, as excited??? by lightning. At 7.83 hertz, it has about the same frequency as the human brain, and failure to be exposed to this “heart-beat of the Earth” can cause migraine headaches and emotional distress.
Though the Earth has had the same frequency for thousands of years, since 1980 it has risen to about 12 hertz. When it reaches 13 hertz, some observers predict it will stop, causing apocalyptic changes around the globe. Yeah, sure. As far as I’m concerned, nothing new can really happen, since Oprah has already left her show — the end of the world has already come.
Of another sort was that other hum-dee-dum we heard throughout the 2010 World Cup of soccer that almost drove us bananas. Called the “vuvuzela”, it’s the plastic horn that originated among South African tribes to summon distant villagers. Throughout the games, it filled football stadiums with its constant, raucous blare. Taos was never like this.
A more peaceful hum is that of “om” or “aum”, which in the Hindu tradition is the sound of supreme consciousness or the name of God. It is believed that the entire universe is made up of vibrating, pulsating energy, and “om” is considered its humming sound.
There are forms of Christian prayer, too, that call for repeating a sacred word. One variation is centering prayer, which uses a sacred word as a loosely-held focus, to bring the mind to total interior silence, with the intention only to surrender to God.
In our early mammalian history, humming was likely used among kin to show that there was no danger from predators. When danger did appear, all grew silent as they stopped and scanned the environment. That may be one reason humming has always been a relaxing sound.
It may not be easy thinking of our ancestral monkeys sitting around relaxing in their easy chairs humming Auld Lang Syne. The Hum, though, in Taos or elsewhere helps us to know that all is well, as we vibrate in unison with Mother Earth — for the moment, at least.
It could also suggest the awesome mystery of the spirit, the source of consciousness and freedom. It’s this mystery that invades and surrounds us, and can lead us to truth in fellowship with one another. And humming keeps everyone wondering, just what is our song?

Kozeny has worked as a teacher, counselor, and in pastoral ministry. He can be reached by e-mail to