29 December 2010

Deep in the bosom of the gentle night

There is a hum, a hum that is following me around the house. Yes, I have become one of those people, the people who think they hear things that no-one else in the room can hear. I am kept awake at night by it, not every night, just often enough that I start to believe that it is a real, external hum, and not something just in my mind.

A low rumbling, somewhere between a washing machine on a spin cycle and a car in the lane outside with its engine ticking over. A rumbling that edges into a low frequency that sets my stomach on edge and makes my temples reverberate in sync with the awful queasiness induced by a dentist drilling through a blackboard made of ballons and fingernails.

It probably is a washing machine. We live in an apartment building with neighbours above and beside, some with babies that no doubt necessitate frequent clothes-washing. However frequently the rumbling coincides with my futile attempts to get to sleep sometime south of 1am, and putting a washer/dryer on at 1am is just rude.

If it's not a washing machine then it almost certainly is tinnitus, which would not be surprising given how late an arrival earplugs were to the Unkie Dave gig-going kit. Sad, but unsurprising.

Thus as I race around the house at 2am unplugging all electrical items, pressing my ear to each wall and wondering how many sheets of tinfoil are really needed to make a hat, I know I have no-one else to blame but myself.

or possibly my neighbours.

yup, its definitely my neighbours' fault.

Stupid neighbours.

(image: graphite filings reverberate atop a drumskin in sync with someone blowing through an improvised bellows below, during BioRhythm at The Science Gallery, July 2010)



At 1:56 pm, Anonymous steve said...

i think tinnitus is normally experienced as a pretty high pitched "ringing"... you probably are hearing some mains hum somewhere. one of your lamps could have a wonky dimmer on it or something...

i always do my laundry / dishwasher late at night :)

At 5:09 pm, Blogger auxfrontin said...

I wonder if you live anywhere near a train line. CIE leaves the big old diesels running 24/7. I live near Kent Station in Cork and no one else in my block of apartments can hear the engines except me humma humma humma humma hum hum hum all night long. I use binaural tones/beats to drown out the noise on nights that it's too much for me.

At 12:56 pm, Blogger Unkie Dave said...

thanks guys for the advice (and shame on you Steve for your late night laundry)

@auxfrontin I'm in Dublin city centre, so trains aren't the issue. The "humma humma humma humma hum hum hum" is pretty damn familiar sounding all the same.

@Steve - could be the mains, but another suspect was offered up to me the other day - water.

My building has a central heating system powered by a ground source heat pump. Even if every radiator in every apartment is turned off, water is still pumped throughout the building for most of the day and night on a continuous cycle.

I'm trying to get the plans of the system from the architects to see where exactly the pipes are, for all I know there's a big one just behind my head.

At 5:37 pm, Blogger Snag Breac said...

I hear a hum a lot. Used to think it was just the noise of the city til it happened in the country, when I thought it was electricity. Then my sister told me it could be the blood travelling through your blood vessels. (Not yours, mine obviously...)
She used to spend time in an anechoic chamber (one which completely excludes all sound and electromagnetic waves and stuff) and thats how she knows that one. And I think thats what it is.
Nicer to think its that anyway!

At 8:58 pm, Anonymous steve said...

i still reckon a dimmer or step down to low voltage lights or something...

why shame on me? i live alone.. and we have a nightsaver thing here which makes it cheaper to run at night :)

At 11:28 am, Blogger Unkie Dave said...

@Snag_Breac - unless my blood is so loud that The Very Understanding Girlfriend can hear it as well, I'm not convinced its the culprit. Now to be fair I'm also not convinced that she hears the same sound as me, so maybe both our blood is unreasonable noisy. Very interesting about the anechoic chamber, must find out more about that whenever I see her next.

@steve - its definitely greener to run your washer at night if you can get a night rate for electricity, I was more thinking about the noise effect on your neighbours, but given that you live in superbia they're not that likely to hear your washing machine anyway, especially over the sound of 3am speaker building ;)


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