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

Do you ever hear sounds that seem to come out of nowhere, like buzzing, thumping, or crackling? If you have hearing aids, it might mean that they need to be adjusted or aren’t properly fitted. But if you don’t have hearing aids the sounds are originating 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 noises you might hear in your ears, and what they could mean 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, although most are temporary and harmless.

Popping or Crackling

You may hear a crackling or popping if the pressure in your ear changes, maybe from an altitude change or from going underwater or even from a yawn. The eustachian tube, a very small part of your ear, is where these sounds originate. When the mucus-lined passageway opens allowing fluid and air to pass, these crackling sounds are produced. It’s an automatic process, but on occasion, like if you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, your tubes can literally get gummed up. In severe cases, when antibiotics or decongestants don’t help, a blockage might call for surgical intervention. If you’re suffering from chronic ear pain or pressure, you really should consult a professional.

Could The Buzzing or Ringing be Tinnitus?

Once again, if you have hearing aids, you could hear these types of sounds if they aren’t sitting correctly in your ears, the volume is too loud, or you have low batteries. If you’re not using hearing aids, earwax could be your issue. Itchiness or even ear infections make sense with earwax, and it’s not unexpected that it could make hearing challenging, but how could it create these sounds? If wax is pressing on your eardrum, it can restrict the eardrum’s ability to work properly, that’s what causes the ringing or buzzing. But don’t worry, the extra wax can be removed professionally. (This is not a DIY activity!) Tinnitus is the term for lasting buzzing or ringing. There are several kinds of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disorder or disease; it’s a symptom that signifies something else is going on with your health. While it might be as simple as wax buildup, tinnitus is also related to afflictions including anxiety and depression. Diagnosing and treating the fundamental health issue can help reduce tinnitus; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This one’s less prevalent, and if you can hear it, you’re the one causing the noises to occur! Have you ever noticed how sometimes, if you have a really big yawn, you can hear a low rumbling? There are little muscles in the ear that contract to help decrease the internal volume of some natural actions like your own voice or chewing or yawning, It’s the tightening of these muscles in response to these natural sounds that we hear as rumbling. Activities, such as yawning and chewing, are so near to your ears that though they are not very loud, they can still harming your hearing. (But talking and chewing as well as yawning are not something we can stop doing, it’s a good thing we have these little muscles.) It’s very rare, but some people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they’re able to produce that rumble whenever they want.

Pulsing or Thumping

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 are extremely close to your ears, and if your heart rate’s up, whether it’s from a hard workout or an important job interview, your ears will pick up the sound of your pulse. This is called pulsatile tinnitus, and unlike other forms of tinnitus, it’s one that not just you hear, if you go to see a hearing specialist, they will be able to hear it too. If you’re dealing with pulsatile tinnitus but you haven’t worked out recently, you need to consult a professional because that’s not common. Like other kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom not a disease; if it continues, it could suggest a health concern. 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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