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

Ever hear buzzing, thumping, or crackling noises that appear to come from nowhere? If you wear hearing aids, it could mean that they require adjustment or aren’t properly fitted. But it might also be possible that, if you don’t use hearing aids, the sounds might be coming from your ears. There’s no need to panic. Our ears are a lot more complex than most of us may think. Different noises you might be hearing in your ears could indicate different things. Here are several of the most prevalent. You should schedule a consultation with a hearing specialist if any of these are lowering your quality of life or are painful and chronic, though the majority are temporary and harmless.

Crackling or Popping

When the pressure in your ears changes, whether from altitude, going underwater or just yawning, you may hear popping or crackling noises. These sounds are caused by a small part of your ear called the eustachian tube. When the mucus-lined passageway opens allowing fluid and air to flow, these crackling sounds are produced. Occasionally this automatic process is interrupted by inflammation triggered by an ear infection or a cold or allergies that gum the ears up. In serious cases, when decongestant sprays or antibiotics don’t provide relief, a blockage might call for surgical intervention. You should probably consult a specialist if you feel pressure or persistent pain.

Buzzing or Ringing is it Tinnitus?

Once more, if you use hearing aids, you might hear these types of sounds if they aren’t fitting correctly in your ears, the volume is too high, or your batteries are running low. If you aren’t wearing hearing aids, earwax could 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 produce these sounds? If wax is touching your eardrum, it can inhibit the eardrum’s ability to work properly, that’s what causes the buzzing or ringing. But don’t worry, the excess wax can be professionally removed. (This is not a DIY activity!) Tinnitus is the name for prolonged buzzing or ringing. Even buzzing from too much earwax is a kind of tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disorder or disease; it’s a symptom that suggests something else is taking place with your health. While it might be as simple as wax buildup, tinnitus is also related to afflictions including anxiety and depression. Tinnitus can be relieved by treating the underlying health problem; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This one’s not as common, and if you can hear it, you’re the one making the noises to occur! Do you know that rumble you can hear sometimes when you take a really big yawn? It’s the sound of tiny muscles inside your ears contracting in order to offer damage control on sounds you make: They reduce the volume of yawning, chewing, even your own voice! We’re not saying you chew too loudly, it’s just that those noises are so close to your ears that without these muscles, the volume level would be harmful. (And since never speaking or chewing isn’t a good solution, we’ll stay with the muscles, thanks!) It’s very rare, but some people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can create that rumble whenever they want.

Pulsing or Thumping

If you at times feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat inside your ears, you’re most likely right. 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. This is called pulsatile tinnitus, and unlike other kinds of tinnitus, it’s one that not just you hear, if you go to a hearing specialist, they will be able to hear it as well. While it’s totally 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 smart move to see a doctor. Like other kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease; there are probably health concerns if it continues. Because your heart rate should go back to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate returns to normal.

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