Illini Hearing - Champaign and Mahomet, IL

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? Perhaps, if you wear hearing aids, they need to be fitted or require adjustment. But if you don’t use hearing aids the sounds are originating from inside your ear. But don’t panic. Even though we generally think of our ears in terms of what they look like on the outside, there’s a lot more than what you see. Here are some of the more common sounds you may hear in your ears, and what they may indicate is going on. Even though most are harmless (and not long lasting), if any of these sounds are persistent, irritating, or otherwise impeding your quality of life, it’s a smart idea to talk to a hearing specialist.

Crackling or Popping

You might hear a crackling or popping if the pressure in your ear changes, perhaps from an altitude change or from going underwater or even from yawning. These noises are caused by a small part of your ear called the eustachian tube. 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 if you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, the passageway can literally get gummed up. In serious cases, where antibiotics or decongestants don’t help, a blockage can require surgical treatment. If you’re experiencing chronic ear pain or pressure, you should probably see a professional.

Could The Buzzing or Ringing be Tinnitus?

Again, if you use hearing aids, you could hear these kinds of sounds if they aren’t fitting correctly in your ears, the volume is too loud, or you have low batteries. But if you don’t have hearing aids and you’re hearing this kind 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 unexpected that it could make hearing challenging, but how could it create these sounds? The buzzing or ringing is caused when the wax is pressing on the eardrum and inhibiting its motion. The good news is, it’s easily fixed: You can get the excess wax professionally removed. (Don’t attempt to do this by yourself!) Intense, prolonged buzzing or ringing is called tinnitus. Even buzzing from too much earwax counts as a form of tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom of some sort of health issue and is not itself a disease or disorder. Besides the buildup of wax, tinnitus can also be linked to anxiety and depression. Tinnitus can be relieved by dealing with the underlying health concern; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This one’s not as prevalent, and if you can hear it, you’re the one making the noises to occur! Have you ever observed how sometimes, if you have a really big yawn, you can hear a low rumbling? It’s the sound of tiny muscles in your ears which contract in order to provide damage control for sounds you create: They lessen the volume of yawning, chewing, even your own voice! Activities, including yawning and chewing, are so close to your ears that even though they are not very loud, they can still harming your ears. (But chewing and talking as well as yawning are not optional, it’s lucky we have these little muscles.) It’s extremely rare, but certain people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can produce that rumble at will.

Thumping or Pulsing

If you occasionally feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat in your ears, you’re most likely right. The ears have some of the bodies largest veins running near them, and if you have an elevated heart rate, whether it’s from a hard workout or a big job interview, your ears will pick up the sound of your pulse. Pulsatile tinnitus is the term for this, and when you go to see a hearing expert, unlike other types of tinnitus, they will be able to hear it as well. If you’re experiencing pulsatile tinnitus but your pulse is not racing, you need to consult a professional because that’s not normal. Like other sorts of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is not a disease, it’s a symptom; there are most likely health issues 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 returns to normal.

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