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

Ever hear noises that seem to come from nowhere, like crackling, buzzing or thumping? If you use hearing aids, it can mean that they require adjustment or aren’t fitted properly. But it may also be possible that, if you don’t have hearing aids, the sounds might be coming from inside your ears. But don’t freak out. Even though we commonly think of our ears in terms of what they look like on the outside, there’s a lot more than what you see. Here are some of the more common noises you may hear in your ears, and what they may mean is going on. Though the majority are harmless (and temporary), if any of these sounds are persistent, irritating, or otherwise interfering with your quality of life, it’s a smart strategy to consult a hearing professional.

Crackling or Popping

You may hear a crackling or popping when the pressure in your ear changes, perhaps from a change in altitude or from swimming underwater or even from yawning. The eustachian tube, a tiny part of your ear, is where these sounds originate. The crackling sound takes place 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 which gum up the ears. In severe cases, when antibiotics or decongestants don’t help, a blockage can call for surgical treatment. You should probably consult a specialist if you have pressure or lasting pain.

Could The Ringing or Buzzing be Tinnitus?

Once again, if you have hearing aids, you could hear these kinds of sounds if they aren’t fitting properly within your ears, the volume is too loud, or you have low batteries. If you aren’t wearing hearing aids, earwax could be your problem. Itchiness or possibly ear infections make sense when it comes to earwax, and it’s not unusual that it could make hearing challenging, but how does it produce these noises? The buzzing or ringing is caused when the wax is pressing against the eardrum and inhibiting its motion. But not to worry, the excess wax can be removed professionally. (Don’t attempt to do this by yourself!) Intense, persistent buzzing or ringing is called tinnitus. There are several types of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disease or disorder; it’s a symptom that suggests something else is taking place with your health. While it may be as straightforward as the buildup of wax, tinnitus is also linked to conditions including anxiety and depression. Tinnitus can be alleviated by dealing with the root health problem; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This sound is one we cause ourself and is much less commonplace. Do you know that rumbling you can sometimes hear when you take a really big yawn? It’s the sound of tiny muscles inside your ears which contract in order to offer damage control for sounds you make: They reduce the volume of yawning, chewing, even your own voice! Activities, including yawning and chewing, are so near to your ears that although they are not really loud, they can still harming your hearing. (But talking and chewing 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 create that rumble whenever they want.

Thumping or Pulsing

Your probably not far of the mark if you at times think you hear a heartbeat in your ears. The ears have some of the bodies biggest veins running near them, and if you have an elevated heart rate, whether it’s from a hard workout or a big job interview, the sound of your pulse will be detected by your ears. Pulsatile tinnitus is the name for this, and unlike other forms of tinnitus, it’s one that not only you hear, if you go to a hearing professional, they will be able to hear it too. While it’s absolutely normal to experience pulsatile tinnitus when your heart’s racing, if it’s something you’re dealing with on a regular basis, it’s a wise move to see your physician. Like other sorts of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom not a disease; there are most likely health problems if it continues. But if you just had a good workout, you should stop hearing it as soon as your heart rate returns to normal.

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