What did I hear?

I was sitting in church (very quiet) and I heard I sound similar to someone bringing a very high pitched tuning fork to my ear. The sound stayed for about 5 seconds then slowly diminished as if someone was pulling the tuning fork away.
Hear are my questions.
Was I hearing a cell phone? radio station? satellite transmission? other?
Could other people around me hear the same?
Are we constantly hearing such high frequency transmissions such that there is no such thing as “quiet” anywhere on the planet? Do we know what quiet sounds like anymore?

Well, I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure that was transient tinnitus and not an outside sound at all. It’s very common.

This happens in my church sometimes as well. I’m pretty sure the noise is just someone’s hearing aid reacting with the PA system.

Another vote for tinnitus.

This was not an outside sound. This was a high frequency ping that was not part of any PA system.

I read about tinnitus and it sounds about right but I’m still not convinced.
Is everyone simply discounting some outside source? Is it not possible to hear high frequency sounds such as radiowaves under some circumstances?
I can clearly remember in grade 5, three of us would play games with a high pitched noise we were hearing. We could all hear it and we would laugh together as it appeared and disappeared.
My wife says she has heard similar sounds.
Any other opinions?

I recall reading somewhere that a high-pitched whine heard for only a few seconds before fading away was caused by the death (apoptosis) of one of the tiny hairs in your inner ear (cochlear cilia) which transmit soundwaves to sensory cells.

I’d like to see Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage take on the Taos Hum. If they can’t find evidence, at least try to recreatte the ELF that would cause it. Maybe document its existence…

Radio waves are not sounds, they are electromagnetic radiation. Sound is caused by compression waves traveling through matter. (Usually air.) You can not hear radio waves under any circumstances.

You can hear things that are not actually sounds though. Tinitus and aural hallucinations, for example.

Tinnitus is the most likely answer, but electronics often produce very high-pitch noise that can be maddeningly difficult to pinpoint and sometimes sound as if they are right in your ear. The most familiar source to most people (who can hear it) is probably a cathode ray tube. I can tell instantly when I enter a house with a TV on, even if there is absolutely no sound from the speakers.

At my mother’s house, there is a TV hooked up to a satelite reciever. When the reciever is turned off, the TV screen is completely blank and there is no sound. The TV appears to be off, but I can still hear that high-pitched hum. It drives my mother and me nuts when her houskeeper watches TV and switches off just the satelite.

The squeal of a hearing aid with a low battery is even higher-pitched, and (despite being so high that it can be hard to hear) extremely loud. It is impossible to pinpoint and sounds like it is coming from inside your own head (if you are not the one wearing the hearing aid). I’ve woken up in the middle of the night more than once because I could hear what I assume was a hearing aid squealing somewhere in the neighborhood.

Like others have said, though, you can’t hear radio waves. They aren’t high-frequency sound waves; they’re low-frequency light waves. You’re as likely to hear radio waves as to hear purple.

I get you on the radiowaves. It’s possilbe it was a hearing aid. There are a lot of old people in my church. Why would it fade in and fade out over 5 seconds?
Rephrasing one of my original questions, “Does the sound of silence sound different now than it did 100 years ago?” There must be tons of sources of high pitched noises.

That’s why I said it was probably tinnitus. Almost everyone gets it from time to time, and about the only difference for me is that if it goes away quickly or there are no old people around, I assume it’s tinnitus. But maybe it was someone close by with a hearing aid, and when they turned their head, the sound wasn’t projected at you anymore. High pitched sounds seem to carry in strange ways, IMO.

I’d imagine silence out in the deep woods sounds the same as it did 100 years ago. And that sounds the same to me as silence in my house, except for animal noises instead of street noises. You could always find a soundproof room in a recording studio or somewhere and see what real silence is like. I think an empty theater is about the quietest place I’ve ever been, since they usually have lots of fabric and other sound-muffling surfaces to prevent echoes.