Hearing Assessment Center, LLC - Lutherville, Bel Air, and  Nottingham, MD

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

Ever hear noises that appear to come from nowhere, such as buzzing, thumping, or crackling? It’s possible, if you have hearing aids, they might need to be fitted or require adjustment. But if you don’t wear hearing aids the noises are originating from inside your ear. You don’t have to panic. Our ears are a lot more complex than most of us may think. Different sounds you may be hearing inside of your ears can mean different things. Here are a few of the most common. Although most are harmless (and temporary), if any are prolonged, painful, or otherwise impeding your quality of life, it’s a good idea to talk to a hearing professional.

Crackling or Popping

You may hear a crackling or popping if the pressure in your ear changes, maybe from an altitude change or from swimming underwater or even from yawning. These noises are caused by a small part of your ear called the eustachian tube. The crackling occurs when these mucus-lined passageways open up, permitting air and fluid 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 literally get gummed up. sometimes surgery is needed in severe cases when the blockage isn’t improved by antibiotics or decongestants. If you’re suffering from persistent ear pain or pressure, you probably should consult a specialist.

Could The Ringing or Buzzing be Tinnitus?

Once again, if you have hearing aids, you might hear these types of sounds if they aren’t sitting properly within your ears, the volume is too high, or you have low batteries. But if you’re not wearing hearing aids and you’re hearing this kind of sound, it could be because of excess earwax. Itchiness or even ear infections make sense when it comes to earwax, and it’s not surprising that it could make hearing challenging, but how does it produce these sounds? If wax is pressing on your eardrum, it can suppress the eardrum’s ability to work properly, that’s what causes the ringing or buzzing. But not to worry, the extra wax can be removed professionally. (This is not a DIY activity!) Excessive, persistent ringing or buzzing is known as tinnitus. There are several types of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus is a symptom of some sort of health issue and isn’t itself a disease or disorder. While it could be as straightforward as the buildup of wax, tinnitus is also related to conditions such as anxiety and depression. Tinnitus can be eased by dealing with the root health concern; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This one’s significantly less common, and if you can hear it, you’re the actually the one making the sound to occur! Have you ever noticed how occasionally, if you have a really big yawn, you hear a low rumble? It’s the sound of little muscles in your ears contracting in order to offer damage control on sounds you create: They reduce the volume of yawning, chewing, even your own voice! Activities, like yawning and chewing, are so close to your ears that even though they are not really loud, they can still be damaging to your ears. (But talking and chewing not to mention yawning are not optional, it’s lucky we have these little muscles.) These muscles can be controlled by some people, even though it’s very rare, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can produce that rumble at will.

Thumping or Pulsing

If you at times feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat inside your ears, you’re most likely right. The ears have a few of the bodies largest veins running near them, and if your heart rate’s up, whether it’s from that big job interview or a tough workout, your ears will detect the sound of your pulse. Pulsatile tinnitus is the name for this, and unlike other forms of tinnitus, it’s one that not just you hear, if you go to see a hearing professional, they will be able to hear it as well. 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 kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus isn’t a disease, it’s a symptom; if it continues, it could point to a health issue. But if you just had a good workout, you should stop hearing it as soon as your heart rate goes back to normal.

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