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

Do you ever hear buzzing, thumping, or crackling sounds that seem to come out of nowhere? If you use hearing aids, it may mean that they need to be adjusted or aren’t fitted properly. But if you don’t have 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 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 lowering your quality of life or are irritating and persistent, even though most are temporary and harmless.

Crackling or Popping

When the pressure in your ears changes, whether it’s from altitude, going underwater or simply yawning, you could hear popping or crackling sounds. The eustachian tube, a tiny part of your ear, is where these sounds originate. The crackling happens when these mucus-lined passageways open up, allowing fluid and air to circulate and equalizing the pressure in your ears. It’s an automatic process, but sometimes, like when you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, your tubes can actually get gummed up. In extreme cases, where decongestant sprays or antibiotics don’t help, a blockage can call for surgical treatment. You should probably consult a hearing professional if you have pressure or chronic pain.

Buzzing or Ringing is it Tinnitus?

It might not be your ears at all if you have hearing aids, as previously mentioned. But if you don’t have hearing aids and you’re hearing this type of sound, it could be because of excess earwax. Itchiness or possibly ear infections make sense when it comes to earwax, and it’s not unusual that it could make hearing difficult, but how does it cause these noises? The ringing or buzzing is caused when the wax is pushing on the eardrum and inhibiting its movement. Thankfully, it’s easily solved: You can get the excess wax professionally removed. (Don’t try to do this yourself!) Excessive, prolonged ringing or buzzing is known as tinnitus. Even buzzing from excessive earwax counts as a form of tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom of some kind of health problem and is not itself a disorder or disease. Besides the wax buildup, tinnitus can also be related to depression and anxiety. Diagnosing and dealing with the fundamental health issue can help relieve tinnitus; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This sound is one we cause ourself and is much less common. Have you ever observed how sometimes, if you have a really big yawn, you hear a low rumble? There are little muscles in the ear that contract in order to minimize the internal volume of certain natural actions such as your own voice or chewing or yawning, It’s the tightening of these muscles in reaction to these natural noises that we hear as rumbling. We’re not suggesting you chew too noisily, it’s just that those noises are so near to your ears that without these muscles, the noise level would be damaging. (And since you can’t stop speaking or chewing, we’ll stay with the muscles, thanks!) It’s extremely unusual, but some people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they’re able to create that rumble at will.

Pulsing or Thumping

If you at times feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat in your ears, you’re most likely right. Some of the body’s biggest veins run very close to your ears, and if your heart rate’s high, whether from a hard workout or an important job interview, the sound of your pulse will be detected by your ears. Pulsatile tinnitus is the term for this, and when you go to see a hearing expert, unlike other forms of tinnitus, they will be able to hear it too. If you’re experiencing pulsatile tinnitus but you haven’t worked out recently, you need to see a professional because that’s not normal. Like other sorts of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease; there are most likely health concerns if it continues. Because your heart rate should come back to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate goes back to normal.