What Are Those Sounds in My Ear?

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

Ever hear noises that seem to come from nowhere, like buzzing, thumping, or crackling? Perhaps, if you wear hearing aids, they might need a fitting or require adjustment. But it might also be possible that, if you don’t have hearing aids, the sounds may be coming from inside your ears. But don’t stress. Our ears are a lot more complex than most of us may think. Here are some of the more common noises you may hear in your ears, and what they could 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 chronic, though most are temporary and harmless.

Popping or Crackling

When the pressure in your ears changes, whether it’s from altitude, going underwater or just yawning, you could hear popping or crackling noises. The eustachian tube, a very small part of your ear, is where these sounds are produced. The crackling sound takes place when these mucus-lined passageways open up, permitting fluid and air to circulate and relieving 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 literally get gummed up. In serious cases, when decongestant sprays or antibiotics don’t help, a blockage might require surgical treatment. You should probably consult a hearing professional if you have pressure or persistent pain.

Could The Ringing or Buzzing be Tinnitus?

Once more, if you use hearing aids, you might hear these kinds of sounds if they aren’t fitting correctly in your ears, the volume is too loud, or you have low batteries. If you’re not using hearing aids, earwax might be your problem. It seems logical that excessive wax may make it difficult to hear, and cause itchiness or even infections, but how can it make a sound? If wax is pressing on your eardrum, it can restrict the eardrum’s ability to work properly, that’s what produces the buzzing or ringing. The good news is, it’s easily fixed: You can have the extra wax professionally removed. (This is not a DIY activity!) Tinnitus is the term 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 could be as straightforward as the buildup of wax, tinnitus is also connected to conditions including anxiety and depression. Diagnosing and dealing with the fundamental health problem can help reduce tinnitus; 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 causing the sound to happen! Have you ever observed how occasionally, if you have a really big yawn, you can hear a low rumbling? It’s the sound of little muscles inside your ears contracting in order to offer damage control for sounds you make: They turn down the volume of chewing, yawning, even your own voice! We’re not suggesting you chew too noisily, it’s just that those sounds are so near to your ears that without these muscles, the noise level would be damaging. (But chewing and talking not to mention yawning are not optional, it’s lucky we have these little muscles.) It’s extremely unusual, but some people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they’re able to produce that rumble at will.

Thumping or Pulsing

If you sometimes feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat inside your ears, you’re probably right. The ears have some of the bodies biggest veins running very close them, and if your heart rate’s up, whether it’s from a tough 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 unlike other forms of tinnitus, it’s one that not just you hear, if you go to a hearing specialist, he or she will be able to hear it as well. If you’re dealing with pulsatile tinnitus but your pulse is not racing, you need to consult a professional because that’s not normal. Like other forms of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is not a disease, it’s a symptom; if it persists, it might point to a health issue. Because your heart rate should return to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate goes back to normal.