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

Ever hear crackling, buzzing, or thumping sounds that appear to come from nowhere? Possibly, if you have hearing aids, they need a fitting or need adjustment. But it may also be possible that, if you don’t use hearing aids, the sounds might be coming from inside your ears. But don’t stress. Even though we commonly think of our ears in terms of what they look like on the outside, there’s much more than what you see. Here are some of the more common sounds you may 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 lowering your quality of life or are irritating and persistent, though most are short-term and harmless.

Crackling or Popping

When there’s a pressure change in your ears, whether from altitude, going underwater or just yawning, you might hear crackling or popping noises. These noises are caused by a tiny part of your ear called the eustachian tube. The crackling happens when these mucus-lined passageways open up, enabling air and fluid to circulate and equalizing the pressure in your ears. Occasionally this automatic process is disturbed by inflammation triggered by an ear infection or a cold or allergies that gum the ears up. Surgery is sometimes needed in serious situations when the blockage isn’t improved by decongestants or antibiotics. If you’re experiencing chronic ear pain or pressure, you really should consult a professional.

Could The Ringing or Buzzing be Tinnitus?

Once more, if you have hearing aids, you may hear these kinds of sounds if they aren’t sitting correctly within your ears, the volume is too high, or you have low batteries. If you’re not wearing hearing aids, earwax might be the issue. It seems logical that excessive wax may make it tough to hear, and cause itchiness or even infections, but how could it make a sound? The buzzing or ringing is caused when the wax is pushing on the eardrum and suppressing its motion. But not to worry, the excess wax can be removed professionally. (This is not a DIY job!) Excessive, prolonged buzzing or ringing is called tinnitus. Even buzzing from excessive earwax is a form of tinnitus. 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 simple as wax buildup, tinnitus is also associated with afflictions such as anxiety and depression. Diagnosing and dealing with the root health issue can help lessen tinnitus; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This one’s significantly less prevalent, and if you can hear it, you’re the actually the one making the sound to happen! Do you know that rumbling you can hear sometimes when you have a really big yawn? It’s the sound of little muscles inside your ears contracting in order to provide damage control on sounds you create: They turn down the volume of yawning, chewing, even your own voice! Activities, including yawning and chewing, are so near to your ears that though they are not very loud, they can still be damaging to your ears. (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 some people, though 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 inside your ears, you’re most likely right. Some of the body’s largest veins run very close to your ears, and if your heart rate’s high, whether from a tough workout or an important job interview, your ears will pick up the sound of your pulse. Pulsatile tinnitus is the name for this, and when you go to see a hearing specialist, unlike other types of tinnitus, they will be capable of hearing it too. If you’re experiencing pulsatile tinnitus but your pulse is not racing, you need to consult a professional because that’s not normal. Like other sorts of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is not a disease, it’s a symptom; there are probably health concerns if it persists. Because your heart rate should return to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate returns to normal.

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