Hearing Health Blog

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

Ever hear buzzing, thumping, or crackling noises that appear to come from nowhere? Possibly, if you use hearing aids, they might need a fitting or need adjustment. But if you don’t have hearing aids the noises are originating from inside your ear. You don’t have to panic. Even though we generally think of our ears with respect to what we see on the outside, there’s a lot more than what you see. Different sounds you may be hearing inside of your ears could indicate different things. Here are some of the most prevalent. You should schedule a consultation with a hearing specialist if any of these are lowering your quality of life or are irritating and chronic, though most are temporary and harmless.

Popping or Crackling

You may hear a popping or crackling if the pressure in your ear changes, possibly from a change in altitude or from swimming underwater or even from a yawn. The eustachian tube, a very small part of your ear, is where these sounds are produced. The crackling takes place when these mucus-lined passageways open up, allowing air and fluid to circulate and equalizing the pressure in your ears. Sometimes this automatic process is interrupted by inflammation caused by an ear infection or a cold or allergies that gum the ears up. Surgery is sometimes needed in serious cases when the blockage isn’t helped by decongestants or antibiotics. If you’re experiencing chronic ear pain or pressure, you should probably consult a professional.

Could The Buzzing or Ringing be Tinnitus?

Once again, if you use hearing aids, you may hear these kinds of sounds if they aren’t fitting correctly in your ears, the volume is too high, or you have low batteries. But if you don’t have hearing aids and you’re hearing this kind 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 suppress the eardrum’s ability to function, that’s what causes the ringing or buzzing. But don’t worry, the excess wax can be removed professionally. (Don’t attempt to do this yourself!) Excessive, prolonged buzzing or ringing is called tinnitus. There are a number of kinds of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus is a symptom of some sort of health problem and is not itself a disorder or disease. While it may be as simple as the buildup of wax, tinnitus is also related to afflictions including depression and anxiety. Diagnosing and dealing with the root health issue can help reduce tinnitus; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This sound is one we cause ourself and is much less commonplace. Have you ever observed how sometimes, if you have a really big yawn, you hear a low rumbling? It’s the sound of little muscles in your ears contracting in order to provide damage control on sounds you make: 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 sounds are so near to your ears that without these muscles, the noise level would be harmful. (But chewing and talking as well as yawning are not optional, it’s lucky we have these little muscles.) These muscles can be controlled by some people, even though it’s quite rare, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can produce that rumble whenever they want.

Thumping or Pulsing

If you occasionally feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat inside your ears, you’re most likely right. The ears have some of the bodies largest veins running near them, and if your heart rate’s high, whether from that big job interview or a hard workout, the sound of your pulse will be detected by your ears. Pulsatile tinnitus is the term for this, and when you consult a hearing expert, unlike other kinds of tinnitus, they will be capable of hearing it also. If you’re experiencing pulsatile tinnitus but your pulse is not racing, you need to consult a specialist because that’s not normal. Like other kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom not a disease; if it persists, it may indicate a health issue. 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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