What is the origin of the mysterious hum?
September 22, 2014
“I REALLY DO LIKE YOUR POETRY, Verna. Do you have enough completed work to write another whole volume yet? Millicent asked her friend as they dug into their desserts. Verna had ordered the Key Lime Pie at Hemingway’s Blue Water Café. Millicent decided to get a new item on the dessert menu which she herself dubbed, Miss Millicent’s Weakness. It was a rich chocolate-y torte covered with caramel and bourbon sauce. “Your poetry has such a music and rhythm to it,” she added, between bites.
“No, I have had quite a dry spell on the poetry, and there is a story behind that. Years ago I went to a doctor for a problem in my head. I was hearing noises in there,” Verna replied.
“Good gosh! I presume you are sane,” Millicent said with a giggle.
“Well, that is a matter for debate. I asked the doctor what was the matter. He asked back, ‘Have you ever been diagnosed with Meniere’s Syndrome?’ I had to answer that I had. I had quite a bad active case of it when I was in my mid-twenties. ‘Awful’ is not a good enough word. So then the doctor said, ‘What you have now is tinnitus, and it may or may not be related to the earlier bouts of Meniere’s. There is no cure. You will just have to put up with it. Some people take the drastic measure of getting their auditory nerve clipped to relieve the constant aggravation, but I don’t advise that.’ I was not happy. I did not know how I could make myself even continue living with this condition.”
“What is it like?” Millicent was curious.
“You hear constant noises in your head. Mine occurred on the left side of my head like they were coming from my left ear. It was the sound of wind whistling by the ear, water running and dripping, clicking noises, whooshing—it is loud. The sounds had a definite pattern and rhythm. They had one benefit, if you can call it that.”
“And what was that?”
“These rhythmic noises actually helped me write poetry. They seemed to actually cause certain poems to pop into my head. Da da da da da! Da da da da da da! I carried paper around with me so that if one materialized I could start scribbling it down, or it would be lost forever.”
“This is horrendous but fascinating, none the less. I wonder if Poe could have had this condition. It would make sense,” Millicent mused.
“I have often thought that he did, personally,” Verna agreed, then continued. Anyway, a few years ago, the tinnitus went away on its own—and with it went most of my new poetry. Oh, occasionally a good one will come to me, but not like they did before. My dealings with tinnitus are what caused me to become interested in ‘The Hum.’”
“Oh dear, what’s that? I am afraid to ask.”
“The Hum is a phenomenon reported by people all over the world. It is a low frequency noise, otherwise known as E.L.F., Extremely Low Frequency. It is irritating and persistent. Not everyone can hear it, and only certain people are receivers. It occurs in different localities and its sources are a mystery. The most famous one in our country is called the Taos Hum, first noted in 1992, it is located in New Mexico. Other hums have been reported, several in England: The London/Southampton Hum, The Bristol Hum, The Cambridge Hum, and also in UK is the Largs, Scotland Hum and one in Beaufort, County Kerry, Ireland.”
“You have become quite the encyclopedia on this enigma. Tell me more. I can’t wait to read-up about it, now, and I will be doing just that.” Millicent encouraged her friend to continue.
“There are others in Kokomo, Indiana, Auckland and Wellington New Zealand, Calgary, Alberta and Windsor, Ontario Canada. A new one started appearing in Seattle, Washington quite recently. There is even one called The Bondi Hum. These first of these hums was first cataloged and reported in the 1940s and continue to present day.”
“I hope you are about to tell me the reasons offered for the hum!” Millicent exclaimed.
“Tinnitus! Can you believe that? They want people to think it is the collective tinnitus of many people. Naturally I am dismissing that as a reason. Spontaneous otoacoustic emissions, is another source—look up that phrase in your Funk and Wagnalls, it’s a mind-blower. The hums heard near oceans have been attributed by naysayers to be colliding ocean waves! Or fish! My own opinion is that they are from vibrations deep inside the earth, or from electrical grids—or outer space, my favorite possibility.”
“What are you doing? You aren’t drawing me a diagram of an ear on your napkin are you?” Millicent asked.
“No. I am writing down a new poem. It is coming to me now. It must have been fate for me to be sitting a little too close to this gurgling waterfall they have placed in the restaurant for atmosphere.”
Millicent smiled. She almost expected to see the appearance of broken fingernails and bloody nubs as Verna scribbled away violently on the scrap of paper trying to capture a new poem—the eatery was, after all designed in Ernest Hemingway’s honor.
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