News / Calgary

Probe of unexplained humming noise widens past Calgary

Buzz about a mystery hum that's confounded researchers and those who hear it has extended well beyond a Calgary neighbourhood where complainants first came forward.

Victims of the so-called "Ranchlands hum" describe it as more of a vibrational feeling than a noise. It has the power to keep them up at night, ruin their mood and has even led some poor souls to question their sanity.

The hum is a "genuine phenomenon," according to University of Calgary researcher Dr. Marcia Epstein, who's worked in her spare time to track the elusive source for a few years.

"It's something we don't yet understand," she said. "They (hum hearers) are not crazy, they're not making it up, they're not losing their hearing."

But the problem appears no longer to be Calgary-specific. Initially, most complaints stemmed from the northwest Calgary neighbourhood of Ranchlands, and a volunteer-led probe of the sound pinpointed the Bearspaw water-treatment plant as a possible source in 2011.

But now complaints are popping up in other areas of Alberta, including Edmonton, and Epstein said she's looking to form a coalition with researchers in Ontario and New Zealand to investigate similar occurrences.

Ranchlands hum-hearer Terry Avramenko said it's hard to know just how many people are affected, but he remains optimistic despite years of torment.

"I think we'll figure it out," he said. "I have talked to people who figure they know what it is."

Epstein urged those who can't shake the auditory annoyance to come forward.

She's also floating a new theory — that the hum is caused by a combination of general urban infrastructure design and how some people's brains process electromagnetic frequencies.

"In other words, wherever you have a city, you're going to get these annoying hums," Epstein explained, before adding: "It's not really valid to report information until we can verify it, and I can't verify this yet. It's just an early-stage theory."

Metro has spoken with people who've reported hearing the hum as far back as 2008.

Anyone who believes they are a victim can contact Epstein at

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