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Since You Asked: Neighborhood noise may be bigger mystery

Since the summer of 2017, we have noticed a dull roar that we can hear from inside the back of our home near Old Stage Road and Beall Lane. It comes and goes, and is audible both day and night. Our guess is it’s coming from the mill, but how come we can hear it now?

— Ron and Paulette, Central Point

Although your question came to us months ago, pardon us if the answer seems eerily prescient for Halloween.

What you’re describing sounds similar to a mysterious phenomenon, or possibly collection of phenomena, that’s been reported around the world, which NBC News and BBC News have referred to as “The Hum.”

About two percent of the population say they hear a soft, low-pitched whirring sound similar to a diesel engine running far in the distance, but whether the sound exists beyond listeners’ heads is subject to debate. Those who hear The Hum have a whole online database devoted to tracking the source of that far-off rumble in the search for common factors.

We’re first to admit it sounds like something out of a Stephen King book.

Explanations of the psychosomatic variety hypothesize that the rumbling sound is a form of low-frequency tinnitus — a hearing disorder caused by the auditory system with no stimulus, or sounds generated in the mind known as “spontaneous otoacoustic emissions.”

Other hum-hearers insist they’re not making up the sound they hear in places as varied as Bristol, England and Taos, New Mexico.

Looking to industrial sources doesn’t always solve the mystery, but for some it does. A hum in the area of West Seattle, Washington, for example, reportedly ceased after silencing a vacuum pump used to offload cargo from ships.

Elsewhere, the hum persists after silencing possible industrial roots. Kokomo, Indiana traced a hum to a cooling tower at an automotive casting plant and an industrial compressor intake; however, the hum reportedly persisted after addressing those two noises according to local media reports there.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501 or by email to youasked@rosebudmedia.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

Since You Asked