Hearing Health Blog

Man touching ear in response to crackling noises in his ear.

Ever hear crackling, buzzing, or thumping sounds that appear to come from nowhere? Perhaps, if you use hearing aids, they might need a fitting or need adjustment. But it could also be possible that, if you don’t wear hearing aids, the sounds could be coming from your ears. But don’t stress. Our ears are a lot more complex than most of us may think. Different noises you may be hearing inside of your ears can mean different things. Here are several of the most common. You should talk with a hearing specialist if any of these are lessening your quality of life or are painful and persistent, although the majority are short-term and harmless.

Crackling or Popping

When the pressure in your ears changes, whether it’s from altitude, going underwater or simply yawning, you could hear popping or crackling noises. The eustachian tube, a tiny part of your ear, is where these sounds originate. The crackling sound occurs when these mucus-lined passageways open up, permitting air and fluid to circulate and equalizing the pressure in your ears. At times this automatic process is interrupted by inflammation triggered by an ear infection or a cold or allergies that gum up the ears. In extreme cases, when antibiotics or decongestants don’t provide relief, a blockage can call for surgical treatment. If you’re having lasting ear pain or pressure, you probably should see a specialist.

Ringing or Buzzing is it Tinnitus?

It may not be your ears at all if you are wearing hearing aids, as previously mentioned. But if you don’t have hearing aids and you’re hearing this type of sound, it could be due to too much earwax. Itchiness or even ear infections make sense with earwax, and it’s not unexpected that it could make hearing difficult, but how does it produce these sounds? If wax is touching your eardrum, it can restrict the eardrum’s ability to work properly, that’s what produces the buzzing or ringing. But not to worry, the extra wax can be professionally removed. (This is not a DIY activity!) Excessive, prolonged buzzing or ringing is known as tinnitus. Even buzzing from too much earwax counts as a type of tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disorder or disease; it’s a symptom that indicates something else is going on with your health. While it may be as straightforward as the buildup of wax, tinnitus is also related to conditions like depression and anxiety. Tinnitus can be alleviated by treating the root health concern; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This one’s less common, and if you can hear it, you’re the one causing the noises to happen! Do you know that rumble you can sometimes hear when you have a really big yawn? It’s the sound of tiny muscles in your ears contracting in order to offer damage control on sounds you create: They turn down the volume of chewing, yawning, even your own voice! We’re not suggesting you chew too noisily, it’s just that those noises are so near to your ears that without these muscles, the noise level would be harmful. (But talking and chewing as well as yawning are not something we can stop doing, it’s lucky we have these little muscles.) These muscles can be controlled by certain people, even though it’s very rare, they’re called tensor tympani, and they’re able to create that rumble at will.

Thumping or Pulsing

Your probably not far from the truth if you at times think you hear a heartbeat in your ears. Some of the body’s largest veins are very close to your ears, and if you have an elevated heart rate, whether from that important job interview or a difficult workout, your ears will pick up the sound of your pulse. This is called pulsatile tinnitus, and unlike other forms of tinnitus, it’s one that not just you hear, if you go to see a hearing specialist, they will be able to hear it as well. If you’re dealing with pulsatile tinnitus but you haven’t worked out recently, you need to see a specialist because that’s not common. Like other kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom not a disease; there are most likely health issues if it continues. Because your heart rate should go back to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate goes back to normal.

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