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

Do you ever hear noises that appear to come from nowhere, such as crackling, buzzing or thumping? If you have hearing aids, it might mean that they have to be adjusted or aren’t fitted properly. But it might also be possible that, if you don’t wear hearing aids, the sounds could be coming from inside your ears. But don’t stress. Our ears are a lot more complex than most of us may think. Different noises you might be hearing in your ears could mean different things. Here are several of the most typical. Although most are harmless (and not long lasting), if any are prolonged, irritating, or otherwise impeding your quality of life, it’s a smart strategy to consult a hearing specialist.

Crackling or Popping

You may hear a popping or crackling if the pressure in your ear changes, perhaps from a change in altitude or from swimming underwater or even from yawning. The eustachian tube, a tiny part of your ear, is where these sounds are produced. When the mucus-lined passageway opens to allow air and fluid to flow, these crackling sounds are produced. It’s an automatic process, but in some circumstances, like if you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, your tubes can actually get gummed up. Surgery is sometimes needed in extreme cases when the blockage isn’t improved by antibiotics or decongestants. You should probably consult a hearing professional if you have pressure or persistent pain.

Could The Buzzing or Ringing be Tinnitus?

Again, if you have hearing aids, you could hear these types of sounds if they aren’t fitting properly within your ears, the volume is too high, or you have low batteries. If you’re not using hearing aids, earwax might be the issue. Itchiness or even ear infections make sense with earwax, and it’s not unusual that it could make hearing difficult, but how could it create these noises? The ringing or buzzing is produced when the wax is pressing against the eardrum and suppressing its motion. But don’t worry, the excess wax can be professionally removed. (Don’t try to do this by yourself!) Tinnitus is the term for persistent ringing or buzzing. There are a number of types of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus is a symptom of some kind of health concern and isn’t itself a disease or disorder. Besides the buildup of wax, tinnitus can also be linked to anxiety and depression. Tinnitus can be relieved by managing the underlying health concern; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This sound is one we cause ourself and is much less common. Do you know that rumble you can hear sometimes when you take a really big yawn? It’s the sound of tiny muscles in your ears contracting in order to offer damage control on sounds you make: They reduce the volume of chewing, yawning, even your own voice! Activities, such as yawning and chewing, are so close to your ears that though they are not very loud, they can still harming your hearing. (And since you can’t stop speaking or chewing, we’ll stay with the muscles, thanks!) These muscles can be controlled by certain people, although it’s quite rare, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can create that rumble whenever they want.

Thumping or Pulsing

Your probably not far from the truth if you at times think you hear a heartbeat in your ears. The ears have a few of the bodies biggest veins running very close them, and if your heart rate’s up, whether from that important job interview or a difficult workout, your ears will detect the sound of your pulse. Pulsatile tinnitus is the term for this, and when you consult a hearing specialist, unlike other types of tinnitus, they will be capable of hearing it as well. While it’s completely 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 decision to see your physician. Like other kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus isn’t a disease, it’s a symptom; there are most likely health concerns if it continues. But if you just had a hard workout, you should not hear it when your heart rate goes back to normal.

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