letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: Are You Hearing a ‘Hum?’

Editor:

My name is Nikolas Harter, I’m a local journalist and podcast producer. I’m working on a story which I’m hoping you can help me with.  

I’ve been investigating reports of a “hum,” a quiet but persistent noise pollution which folks in our part of the city have been experiencing. What’s most characteristic about this hum is that, even within the same household, some people can hear it while most cannot. It’s quiet, often below the level of ambient noise, and sounds like a low bass throb or a distant engine idling. It can be a constant drone or more intermittent. Some folks experience a slight vibration along with the noise. While it’s not loud, it can be very annoying.   

It’s not clear how many people are being affected by a hum like this, that’s what I’m trying to figure out. I’m looking into this on behalf of Dale Tutaj who recently moved away from Sunset District partly because of an incessant vibration-hum which he experienced at multiple homes in the neighborhood. He raised the issue with City Council, someone did come out to measure it, and they said they couldn’t detect anything. However, I’ve interviewed a handful of folks who are experiencing a similar phenomenon as Mr. Tutaj, and there are dozens more who claim to have heard a hum on the social media app Nextdoor. 

If you’re reading this and you’ve heard a hum at your home, would you kindly send me an email? I’m collecting first-person accounts from folks, either written or via remote interview. Send me a message and I can direct you on how to submit your account. This story will appear on KALW’s news show Crosscurrents and will also eventually surface in a mystery-solving podcast. Let me know if you’d like to be anonymous and maintain your privacy. 

If you’re interested in reading more, I have provided some links below.

There were a couple of Nextdoor posts that blew up where folks in Sunset District were talking about their experiences with a hum. You can see those posts here and here

This is a website Mr. Tutaj created to document his experience with the hum. While the measurements were of little use to the acoustical engineer I showed them to, the website does a good job of communicating Mr. Tutaj’s efforts to locate the source of the sound/vibration, and his distress. 

This is a Wikipedia article about the larger phenomenon known as The Hum

Thank you!

Nik Harter

nik.harter@gmail.com (please include the word ‘hum’ in subject line). 

2 replies »

  1. I’ve been hearing this on Upper Market above the Castro. It’s irritating enough many nights lately that I get awakened by it multiple times throughout the night. Getting 5 hours of sleep is becoming a norm, and not one I care for at all.

    From a quick web search, I’m wondering if this could be the reported hum caused by the new guardrails installed on the Golden Gate Bridge last year.

    I don’t hold a lot of hope that they’ll replace the brand new rails to fix this, so I guess our options are ‘don’t sleep if it’s windy, or abandon The City’. :/

    Like

    • Hi Todd, this is Nik who wrote this letter and who’s working on this story. If you’d like to submit a more official account of your experience, I’d love to hear from you. I’ve been collecting accounts from people such as yourself to try to gain an understanding of the nature and scale of the problem. You can email me at nik.harter@gmail.com, just let me know you’d like to submit an account and I can send you the questions.

      By the way, the hum you’re hearing may or may not be from the bridge. You’re a little far from the bridge to be able to hear it, and that hum can occur at all times of day, not just night. If you email in and give me some more details about what you’re hearing, I could let you know for sure whether or not it’s coming from the bridge. I’m familiar with that hum as well, I did a story on it last year!

      all the best,
      Nik

      Like

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