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Severe Tinnitus Following the Installation of New Electricity Meters

Since new gas and electricity meters were installed in my house on 9 February 2022, I have had a very serious problem with tinnitus. I also have had a feeling of strong pressure on my eardrums. Let me say straight away that this is nothing to do with smart meter communications; the hub responsible for mobile and Wi-Fi signals was removed one week after the meters were installed as a final attempt by the energy company to solve the problem. Various engineers I’ve been in contact with over this matter suspect the problem is most likely to be a switched-mode power supply or capacitors associated with it. I would like to know more about how such a device upset my health to the point that I do not feel it is safe to live in my own home. The energy company have refused to carry out any further work to investigate the issue and state that their meters meet all the current standards and are therefore safe.

I did not have any problems with the traditional analogue meters previously installed. I should add that I’ve been in houses that have smart electricity meters of various types and only in one of those houses do I feel my tinnitus tone is being amplified and none result in any pressure feelings on my eardrums. The first meter, a Landis+Gyr E470 was replaced with a Kaifa MA120 five days after complaining to my energy company. The Landis+Gyr meter was unbearable to live with any longer than that. The Kaifa model has seen me leave home twice for respite despite discovering on how to dampen down the tinnitus and greatly reduce the pressure feeling on my eardrums. The Kaifa makes an awful little noise which if I could hear that while in the living room, I could understand why my ears are being irritated. The Landis+Gyr also made a similar noise but a little quieter. However, should such devices make any audible noise at all? Some people don’t have the ability to hide these away in cupboards. I can hear the Kaifa meter 2 to 3 metres away with the cupboard door open where it is installed. A short recording of the continuous noise it makes can be heard in the following mp3 file:

My tinnitus grew into a significant problem within 24 hours of the Landis+Gyr meter being installed. I’ve had tinnitus in the past and was cautious to blame the new gas and electric meters at first, but I soon noticed this was very different to previous bouts of tinnitus: I found the affect would wane when away from the house and be amplified back to ‘horribly irritating’ upon return. The pressure feeling on my eardrums 'throbbed away' as soon as I got a short distance away from my house, it too would come back very quickly upon returning inside. When the Landis+Gyr meter was shutdown for replacement, it was an hour before the Kaifa meter was switched on. That is the only time I’ve been in the house since the new meters were installed on 9 February that my ears have felt calm, albeit the tinnitus tone only very slowly fades away. Unfortunately that short period of time was to end with a shock when the Kaifa was powered on; I felt a short burst of pain in both ears making me flinch in my seat. I was not watching what the fitter was doing and had to ask him what had just happened. He stated he had just powered up the meter with the distribution board still switched off. I’m horrified that simply turning on the meter could cause me pain, not to mention the fact the tinnitus and pressure feeling came back with this new meter.

With the aid of a friend who is also has a background in electrical and electronic engineering, I made the discovery that the effects of the meter can be reduced by turning off electrical devices plugged into the mains supply and found by turning off the ring main supplying the bedroom overnight, I could achieve better sleep, albeit still not adequate. Suspicion then was that the meter was emitting something being carried around the house via the mains cabling as opposed to just emitting something from itself. I requested help from the local power distribution company who sent out an engineer to check for electromagnetic fields. No unusually strong fields were found, however the engineer said he could perceive a high pitch tone and a bit of pressure on his eardrums. So far the only other person to sense something of what I am experiencing and I at least do not feel alone any more. He asked me to try powering down electrical equipment before turning the distribution board off and we both felt a relief from the pressure as soon as I turned off the television and surround sound system. The surround sound system along with most other audio equipment are now unplugged and the sense of pressure on my eardrums is much less noticeable. The engineer mentioned that tantalum capacitors and switched-mode power supplies can be a source of noise at frequencies in the audible range if they are defective or inadequately filtered.

Unfortunately the tinnitus tone has been gaining strength recently worsening my sleep down to just 2 hours a night. Hence I have had to leave my house again for respite, immediately achieving nearly 7 hours sleep on my first night away despite the tone having hardly subsided. I have used a tone generator to match the tinnitus at 14kHz. Sound analyser applications on my smart phone don’t show anything unusual at this frequency, but there is some low frequency noise below 100Hz and high frequency noise around 20kHz. Both are at low volumes, albeit I hardly think the microphone on a smart phone can be trusted at these low and high frequencies. However, what is interesting is that noise in the 17kHz to 21kHz range is hardly present when I am in other houses with smart meters where my tinnitus is not amplified and it is present in the only other house I know where my tinnitus is amplified. It could be a red herring, but there must be strange harmonics involved one way or another.

I’ve spent a great deal of time researching the Internet trying to find out about the problems with tinnitus and smart meters. I find people reporting life affecting tinnitus within two days of having smart meters fitted and then the forum responses where they posted concentrate on the arguments about Wi-Fi and mobile phone signals, neither of which apply here and then they soon degenerate into conspiracy theories about smart meters. (I’d have been very disturbed by tinnitus for the last 20 years if I had any sensitivity to radiation from mobile phones and Wi-Fi routers.) I’ve been in touch with the British Tinnitus Association and they have confirmed my case is “not without precedent”. I’ve had an email discussion with a specialist audiologist who states that the link between electrical apparatus and tinnitus is not scientifically proven but it is known some people can be hyper-sensitive. I’ve not knowingly been sensitive to any electrical devices in the past. I've had a hearing test which proves my hearing in the normal range is very good for my age, just some mild loss in the 7kHz to 8kHz range. The tone generators I used to match my tinnitus show I can hear tones up to around 15kHz, subject to the quality of these tone generator apps, websites and speakers within my smart phone and attached to my computer.

Maybe the arguments over smart meters and health problems have been clouded by the debate on Wi-Fi and mobile phone signals rather than the quality of the electronics in these meters. The electronics engineers who have pointed out the problem is likely to be the switched-mode power supply or capacitors within the electricity meter have done so independently, based in three different countries, which proves to me there is some concern about these components which obviously are in lots more devices than just meters. There is a difference though: I have two devices which have power supplies, almost certainly switched-mode, that make audible noises, but these can be turned off and would be replaced if I suspected they were causing any health concerns. The electricity meter is not something that can be turned off and replaced by the householder, it has to be changed by the energy company and any interference with it is illegal. I’m currently left in a position where I am reporting health effects coincident with the meters being fitted, locational to my house, affected by household electrical equipment and I'm so afflicted I am renting accommodation at some expense away from home, but being told by the company they are not going to do anything about it. They asked me switch company if I wanted the meter changing again and issued me with a deadlock letter so that I could take my case to the Energy Ombudsman as the only alternative. Either takes more weeks than I would like to contemplate, I've suffered more than enough already.

As switching energy companies at the current time is very difficult and very expensive without having to make the unusual request to remove a virtually new meter, I have started a complaint with the Ombudsman and I need to supply them with as much evidence as possible to prove the electricity meter is causing my health problem. There does not appear to be anyway of enabling the meter to be replaced as a matter of urgency given all my personal evidence as described above. If anyone can provide any advice or evidence that the quality of these meters can result in problems like I am experiencing I would be very grateful indeed. If anyone is researching in this area I would be very happy to help them with my experience, I do not fancy a future where such tinnitus inducing devices are common to every home.

  • The higher the frequency the less that mounting arrangements and sounding board damping will help - it always will help, but at higher freqs more is directly radiated, as opposed to the vibration being coupled out into a larger object that acts like an impromptu speaker cone.  Corrollary of course, really low frequencies require a very positive sound break to avoid transmission.

    The origin is almost certainly a ferrite core, wound as part of a switch mode supply.  The actual main switching frequency will almost certainly be supersonic - some are in the low MHz region these days but to maximize efficiency as the load varies, the oscillations are started and stopped - in the language of the old RF sweats, 'squegging' and that stopping and starting of the ultrasound is what occurs at a rather indeterminate audio frequency.

    There are various things that can be done to mitigate at the design stage - specifying a conformal coat (varnish) is one, and another is ensuring the starting is soft, or having a permanent load so it never quite stops, but both of those lower the efficiency.

    As regards the screws to the wall, the  (maybe asbestos)  rawl plugs that retain them would have been hammered in with hand tools, you may find if you look at the heads, that also goes for the screws as well - not every thing was done better in the old days. And mild steel screws expand if they rust becoming surprisingly tight. Usually permanent until the board is removed, and then it is a crowbar ;-)


  • Thanks for the description. So my working hypothesis is that there is material in the structure of your house which is resonating in sympathy with whatever frequencies are emitted by the meter(s). They might well be undertones of what the meter is putting out. The energy to drive the resonances will be coming not just from the meter but from other structural sources. As a general phenomenon it most certainly happens. I am sensitive to it, differently sensitive at different times. I first noticed it in Germany two decades ago and hadn't noticed it in other countries where I have lived (different building structures; different mounting habits; different frequencies; different me). It has been at times mildly annoying, but not to anywhere near the extent which you describe. 

    It is countered or stopped by dampening the connection between meter and house structure. As in your case it is mostly meter-to-box/board and then box/board to wall, so there are two connections one can choose to dampen. 

    I suggest you remount the board with damping (not just backing on the board but also between board & mounting screws - rubber washers under the screw head, for example). I suggest further that you have the meter similarly dampingly mounted on the board. Whatever is resonating will thereby lose its input.

    The workers might need some persuading - there is almost bound to be a "most people don't have this problem" response (which, reading between the lines, you seem to have encountered). To which the obvious answer is "I am not most people. I have medical reports on my tinnitus response to this phenomenon and the partial solution is to dampen the resonances."

    I am no medic, and of course your tinnitus response is specific to you (trigger frequencies, etc), but I would think it highly likely that if the resonance is so dampened then your tinnitus response will be proportionately milder or, hopefully, absent. 

  • The higher the frequency the less that mounting arrangements and sounding board damping will help

    Sure, but the undertones could well be developing in/on the board, if not in the meter housing itself. One test would be to dismount but not disconnect the meter. Then you get the "raw" meter tonal product, and can qualitatively tell whether the mounting and then building structures are amplifying it.

  • Thanks Peter. I'm struggling to get those old screws to turn and one of course is impeded by the meter itself. So as a temporary measure I have stuffed some thick material into the gap between the wall and the board. I accidentally found I could reduce the sound the meter is making by moving the output neutral and live cables upwards slightly, so I have put in something to wedge them up. I don't like putting pressure on any electrical cables but the thickness of these is quite substantial and the force is low. I reckon it is better than anything I could devise to put pressure on the corners of meter's plastic casing to replicate what I did with my hands. Little bit bizarre with the cables but the overall result is that the audible noise is now pretty minimal.

    I now have to wait and see if there's any affect on my tinnitus. It would be amazing if it reduces for just something as simple as dampening how the meter is fitted. I won't be overly optimistic in thinking it will go altogether, I believe there are harmonics still around causing it. Acoustically, the sound analyser app on my phone shows a big improvement below 10kHz, but there is still some noise registering at 10kHz and in it's top range of 17kHz to 21kHz.

    Unless I find something that really looks promising at reducing the tinnitus, I am pretty sure the energy company will not send their subcontractors back. It's a shame they not more interested in finding out what's happening here than they are. I'm hardly a great advert for smart meters at the moment and finding a solution for one of the most reported health complaints would be so beneficial on lots of counts. In the meantime, I'm having to consider further respite away from home as last night's sleep was abysmal once again. Strange head pains now as well as the tinnitus plaguing me, interesting talk with a GP coming up tomorrow. Let's see how tonight goes, I will need a couple of good sleeps at least to judge this as successful, but I'm very grateful for something that makes a difference. It's already proven I can quell that rotten audible noise, which has been an irritant to my tinnitus if nothing else whenever I've needed to go into the understairs cupboard.

  • I live in a different regulatory regime, and I guess it is histories like yours which make me grateful. An electrician is supplied with a calibrated meter if he/she asks the supplier. The meter is installed by the electrician, and registered with the supplier (to each meter there is an account with a named user). If there is a problem with the installation, I call my electrician and he fixes it. There is "what do you want to do *that* for?" and "if you really want that, I'll do it, but I don't see the point" and suchlike, but the bottom line is that, after minimal but pertinent discussion, if I want something, it gets done, and it gets done the way I want it. With an opinion, gratis. What he probably can't do is reinstall electromechanical meters, because the supplier isn't issuing them. But remounting a box the way I want it is no problem. 

    One current issue is deciding whether I want to install Type B RCDs on all circuits. I have an older house with wooden floor constructions which host a certain number of critters who don't pay any rent and like to chew cables, mice and martens. I am somewhat concerned about arc faults sending me up in flames (I have been concerned professionally about this ever since TWA800 in 1996, when arc fault circuit breakers were novel and 20+ times the price if you could get them). It hasn't happened yet but the critters aren't going away. 

    If I were to be as concerned about the hum in my place as I was two decades ago, I could have it fixed in a day. But I am not. In the last couple weeks, the population of my city has increased 1% with people who have been bombed out of their homes. That is likely to go up considerably. There were some 90 orphans on the way to us in buses .... that just disappeared from the face of the earth before they even got to Poland. We have a lot more to worry about than hums in buildings.

  • yes - I'm not saying it is not worth trying to damp it more that higher freqs benefit from enclosures to trap them and low one from something more like shock absorbers to mechanically de-couple them.

    There are anti-vibration pipe/ cable clips made to decouple cables and pipes from vibration in a dissipative way

    This sort of thing  a stack of washers betwen it and the board to avoid too much strain.  That  is an image of the sort of thing but  i expect for small quantities then Ebay may be your friend ' padded P clip' or 'cushion P clip' are the right sort of search terms.

    Take great  care with anything that might  move the meter board - depending on the state of the incoming cable it can go very badly wrong if it  drops off the wall and kinks the cable incomer sharply. Older lead covered paper insulated cables are very unforgiving of that sort of abuse, and of course the company cables are on the wrong side of the incoming fuse, so the potential for arc flash injury in the form of something more than an instant sun-tan is much higher than after the meter. (so do not go mad and pull it about like a gorrilla.)


  • Hi Mike, thanks for the tips on this.The house has been rewired around 30 years ago so the cables are a little bit more modern than what you descibe and I have been very gentle with them. It was suprising just how much difference it made to the audible meter noise which I am glad to quieten down, but I don't think, certainly not from how I feel at the moment, it is going to affect the tinnitus much.

  • I do wish it was as simple as calling in an electrician to install a different meter, instead I'm at the mercy of the energy company who do not believe anything is wrong with their meter. The energy market at the moment is virtually broken here in the UK, to the extent switching companies is very difficult and expensive as companies do not want new customers. If they offer tariffs for new customers they are double or even triple the government capped variable rate. Then I have the problem of asking them to change the meter. I've already been refused on the grounds that it wasn't for the next company to resolve a problem with a meter installed by the previous company.

    Tinnitus is not like building hum. If there's a link between the amount of audible noise the meter makes and the tinnitus then hopefully the changes I made today will make a difference. While I am certainly glad that the audible noise is now much reduced, I can't report any reduction in the tinnitus yet. Indeed I won't know for several days as it is taking longer and longer for my tinnitus to fade even when I leave my home for a several days as per last week. The tone I'm suffering remains loud and clear at around 14kHz, earplugs only make matters worse as they cut out all other sound leaving me to hear nothing but the tone. Tinnitus leads to insomnia, headaches and fatigue all of which I'm now suffering to a large extent, all of which lead on to other health issues. I'm worrying about the long term effects of all this too. While I'm much more fortunate than the people being bombed out of their homes and losing their lives in Ukraine, I feel as if I am losing my home and I just can't live with the tinnitus I am suffering here too much longer. No one should be made to feel ill from the installation of any electrical device in their home, particularly one that they cannot turn off and replace.

  • I'll confirm after another torrid night, that dampening the audible noise the meter makes has had no effect on my tinnitus. Sleep has been limited to between 4 and 5 hours broken into 2 parts. I really do need this problem solved quickly. Evidence for my case with the Ombudsman closes tomorrow. I'm hoping for a speedy adjudiciation with it being a health matter, otherwise I could have several more months of this, which put simply, is not possible.

  • That is a pity - the audible thing you have suppressed is clearly not the whole story, though it does suggest the whole thing was vibrating as a sounding board for the audible part of things and that has now been nobbled. But for you there is more going on, and personally I'm not sure what to suggest.

    In general terms, anything radiated from a point source will go down as the square of the distance, so you should be a hell of a lot worse at 1m than at 5m.  If something is ducted / guided then it becomes the unexpected transmission line you need to get away from of course, which could be the wiring, but is unlikely. 
    How good is long and medium wave reception in your building?, that can sometimes be used as the canary in the coal mine as the AM is very good at revealing sources of RF noise.