Humming blight mystifies scientists

THE HOPES of thousands of Britons engaged in a 10-year search for the source of a mysterious droning sound that has blighted their lives were yesterday dashed.

These so-called 'hummers' had hoped to hear that their protracted search was over. Many had become convinced that the source was the compressor stations at the end of British Gas transmission pipes.

But at a meeting in Solihull, near Birmingham, yesterday, three of the company's scientists dismissed the theory.

There are a few thousand known hummers in Britain - 500 new cases are reported each year. The hum, described by one sufferer as the sound of a car engine running constantly a few hundred yards away, is a minor irritant for some, but others have had their lives devastated. Some are on tranquillisers and cannot sleep. One has reportedly been driven to suicide.

Suggestions for the cause of the hum abound. They include air- conditioning, underground water pumps, factory noises, road vehicles and electro-magnetic fields around radio transmitters. But representatives of the Low Frequency Noise Sufferers Association had hoped the answer lay in the gas pipes.

'Our analysis was well received,' Pat Weatherilt, acting head of environment at British Gas, said. 'These people have a deep conviction about the cause of their suffering and the association with our pipelines, which is not based . . . on logic or science.' In a report published yesterday, British Gas analysed all the complaints the company received over the past decade. It concludes: 'The amount of low frequency sound energy emanating from the national transmission system is negligible compared to that from other sources, for example, motorways and trunk roads.'

It goes on to say that British Gas compressor stations operate, on average, for only 16 per cent of the time. 'They cannot therefore be the source of the continuous noise of which most sufferers complain.'

In several individual cases the scientists identified the source of the hum, and if this was a British Gas site it remedied the problem. But the researchers point out that low frequency sounds are less readily absorbed by air or objects in their path as high frequency noises. Potential sources could therefore be 'many and varied, and often impossible to identify'.

The scientists concede that sufferers are 'sincere indidviduals' who are in many cases caused considerable distress. They suggest that age may play a part - older people are general accepted as being less sensitive to high frequencies.

Earlier this year the hummers had their suffering acknowledged. The Department of the Environment is funding a two-year study in which scientists are trying to find the source of the hum for 25 sufferers.

Representatives from Ofgas, the industry's watchdog, attended yesterday's meeting. A consultant is liaising with the Buildings Research Establishment which is co-ordinating the Government's study.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'