What Are Those Noises in My Ear?

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

Do you ever hear noises that seem to come out of nowhere, such as crackling, buzzing or thumping? It’s possible, if you use hearing aids, they need a fitting or require adjustment. But it could also be possible that, if you don’t have hearing aids, the sounds may be coming from your ears. There’s no need to panic. Even though we mostly think of our ears with respect to what they look like on the outside, there’s a great deal more than meets the eye. Here are some of the more common noises you may hear inside your ears, and what they could indicate is going on. You should schedule a consultation with a hearing specialist if any of these are lessening your quality of life or are painful and chronic, though the majority are temporary and harmless.

Popping or Crackling

You might hear a popping or crackling if the pressure in your ear changes, perhaps from a change in altitude or from going underwater or even from yawning. The eustachian tube, a tiny part of your ear, is where these sounds are produced. When the mucus-lined passageway opens to allow fluid and air to pass, these crackling sounds are produced. It’s an automatic process, but sometimes, like when you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, the passageway can actually get gummed up. In severe cases, when decongestant sprays or antibiotics don’t provide relief, a blockage may require surgical treatment. You probably should consult a hearing professional if you have pressure or prolonged pain.

Buzzing or Ringing is it Tinnitus?

Again, if you have hearing aids, you could hear these types of sounds if they aren’t sitting properly within your ears, the volume is too loud, or you have low batteries. If you’re not using hearing aids, earwax may be the issue. Itchiness or possibly ear infections make sense when it comes to earwax, and it’s not unexpected that it could make hearing challenging, but how does it create these sounds? If wax is pressing on 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 removed professionally. (Don’t try to do this at home!) Excessive, prolonged buzzing or ringing is known as tinnitus. There are a number of types of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disorder or disease; it’s a symptom that suggests something else is happening with your health. While it might be as simple as wax buildup, tinnitus is also connected to afflictions such as depression and anxiety. Tinnitus can be alleviated by treating the root health problem; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This sound is one we cause ourself and is a lot less common. Have you ever observed how sometimes, if you have a really big yawn, you can hear a low rumble? There are tiny muscles in the ear that contract in order to minimize the internal volume of certain natural actions like your own voice or chewing or yawning, It’s the contraction of these muscles in response to these natural sounds that we hear as rumbling. We’re not claiming you chew too noisily, it’s just that those sounds are so near to your ears that without these muscles, the volume level would be harmful. (And since you can’t stop speaking or chewing, we’ll stay with the muscles, thanks!) It’s very rare, but certain people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can produce that rumble at will.

Pulsing or Thumping

If you occasionally feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat inside your ears, you’re most likely right. The ears have a few of the bodies largest veins running near them, and if your heart rate’s up, whether from that big job interview or a hard workout, the sound of your pulse will be picked up by your ears. Pulsatile tinnitus is the term for this, and when you consult a hearing specialist, unlike other kinds of tinnitus, they will be able to hear it as well. If you’re experiencing pulsatile tinnitus but your pulse is not racing, you need to see a specialist because that’s not common. Like other sorts of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom not a disease; there are likely health issues if it continues. But if you just had a hard workout, you should stop hearing it as soon as your heart rate comes back to normal.

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