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

Do you ever hear thumping, buzzing, or crackling sounds that appear to come from nowhere? If you have hearing aids, it may mean that they need to be adjusted or aren’t properly fitted. But if you don’t wear hearing aids the sounds are coming from inside your ear. There’s no need to panic. Our ears are a lot more complex than most of us may think. Here are some of the more common sounds you might hear inside your ears, and what they may mean is going on. Though the majority are harmless (and not long lasting), if any of these sounds are persistent, irritating, or otherwise impeding your quality of life, it’s a good idea to consult a hearing professional.

Crackling or Popping

You may hear a popping or crackling when the pressure in your ear changes, maybe 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. When the mucus-lined passageway opens enabling air and fluid to flow, these crackling sounds are produced. Sometimes this automatic process is interrupted by inflammation triggered by an ear infection or a cold or allergies which gum up the ears. In extreme cases, when decongestant sprays or antibiotics don’t help, a blockage may call for surgical treatment. You probably should see a specialist if you have pressure or chronic pain.

Ringing or Buzzing is it Tinnitus?

Once more, if you use hearing aids, you may hear these kinds of sounds if they aren’t sitting properly within 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 type of sound, it could be because of too much earwax. It seems logical that too much wax might make it tough to hear, and cause itchiness or possibly infections, but how can it make a sound? If wax is pressing on your eardrum, it can inhibit the eardrum’s ability to function, that’s what causes the buzzing or ringing. But don’t worry, the extra wax can be removed professionally. (Don’t attempt to do this by yourself!) Intense, persistent ringing or buzzing is called tinnitus. There are several forms of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disease or disorder; it’s a symptom that signifies something else is taking place with your health. Besides the buildup of wax, tinnitus can also be linked to anxiety and depression. Diagnosing and treating the root health issue can help reduce tinnitus; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This sound is caused by our own body and is a lot less common. Do you know that rumble you can sometimes hear when you take a really big yawn? It’s the sound of little muscles in your ears which contract in order to provide damage control on sounds you make: They turn down the volume of chewing, yawning, even your own voice! Activities, such as yawning and chewing, are so close to your ears that although they are not very loud, they can still harming your ears. (But chewing and talking 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 very unusual, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can create that rumble whenever they want.

Pulsing or Thumping

If you occasionally feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat inside your ears, you’re probably right. Some of the body’s biggest veins are very close to your ears, and if your heart rate’s up, whether from a tough workout or a big job interview, the sound of your pulse will be detected by your ears. This is known as pulsatile tinnitus, and when you consult a hearing expert, unlike other forms of tinnitus, they will be capable of hearing it too. If you’re dealing with pulsatile tinnitus but you haven’t worked out recently, you need to consult a specialist because that’s not normal. Like other kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is not a disease, it’s a symptom; there are most likely health concerns if it continues. Because your heart rate should return to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate comes back to normal.

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