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

Do you ever hear sounds that seem to come out of nowhere, such as crackling, buzzing or thumping? If you use hearing aids, it might mean that they need to be adjusted or aren’t properly fitted. But if you don’t wear hearing aids the sounds are originating from inside your ear. There’s no need to panic. Even though we usually think of our ears in terms of what they look like on the outside, there’s much more than meets the eye. Here are some of the more common noises you might hear in your ears, and what they may mean is happening. You should schedule a consultation with a hearing specialist if any of these are lessening your quality of life or are irritating and chronic, though most are brief and harmless.

Popping or Crackling

You might hear a popping or crackling when the pressure in your ear changes, perhaps from a change in altitude or from going underwater or even from a yawn. The eustachian tube, a tiny part of your ear, is where these sounds are produced. When the mucus-lined passageway opens enabling fluid and air to flow, these crackling sounds are produced. It’s an automatic process, but in some situations, like if you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, your tubes can literally get gummed up. In severe cases, where decongestant sprays or antibiotics don’t help, a blockage might call for surgical intervention. You probably should consult a hearing professional if you have pressure or prolonged pain.

Could The Buzzing or Ringing be Tinnitus?

It may not be your ears at all if you have hearing aids, as mentioned before. But if you’re not wearing hearing aids and you’re hearing this type of sound, it could be due to excess earwax. Itchiness or possibly ear infections make sense when it comes to earwax, and it’s not unexpected that it could make hearing difficult, but how does it cause these noises? The ringing or buzzing is caused when the wax is pressing against the eardrum and suppressing its motion. But not to worry, the extra wax can be professionally removed. (This is not a DIY procedure!) Tinnitus is the name for prolonged buzzing or ringing. Even buzzing from too much earwax is a form of tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disorder or disease; it’s a symptom that suggests something else is happening with your health. Besides the buildup of wax, tinnitus can also be related to anxiety and depression. Diagnosing and dealing with the root health problem can help reduce tinnitus; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This sound is one we cause ourself and is a lot less commonplace. Do you know that rumbling you can hear sometimes when you have a really big yawn? There are little muscles in the ear that contract in order to lessen the internal volume of some natural actions such as your own voice or yawning or chewing, It’s the contraction of these muscles in reaction to these natural noises that we hear as rumbling. We’re not suggesting you chew too loudly, it’s just that those noises are so near to your ears that without these muscles, the volume level would be damaging. (And since never chewing or speaking isn’t a good option, we’ll stay with the muscles, thanks!) These muscles can be controlled by some people, although it’s quite unusual, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can create that rumble whenever they want.

Thumping or Pulsing

If you occasionally feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat in your ears, you’re probably right. Some of the body’s largest veins are extremely close to your ears, and if your heart rate’s up, whether from that important job interview or a tough workout, your ears will pick up the sound of your pulse. This is known as pulsatile tinnitus, and when you consult a hearing expert, unlike other types of tinnitus, they will be capable of hearing it as well. If you’re experiencing pulsatile tinnitus but your pulse is not racing, you need to see a professional because that’s not normal. Like other kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease; there are probably health problems if it persists. Because your heart rate should come back to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate goes back to normal.

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