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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, like crackling, buzzing or thumping? If you wear hearing aids, it can mean that they require adjustment or aren’t fitted properly. But it might also be possible that, if you don’t have hearing aids, the sounds could be coming from inside your ears. But don’t panic. Our ears are a lot more complex than most of us may think. Here are some of the more common sounds you may hear inside your ears, and what they may mean is going on. You should schedule a consultation with a hearing specialist if any of these are lessening your quality of life or are irritating and persistent, though most are temporary and harmless.

Crackling or Popping

You might hear a crackling or popping when the pressure in your ear changes, possibly from a change in altitude or from going underwater or even from a yawn. These noises are caused by a tiny part of your ear called the eustachian tube. When the mucus-lined passageway opens allowing air and fluid to pass, these crackling sounds are produced. Sometimes this automatic process is disturbed by inflammation triggered by an ear infection or a cold or allergies which gum the ears up. Surgery is sometimes needed in serious situations when the blockage isn’t improved by antibiotics or decongestants. You should probably see a hearing professional if you have pressure or lasting pain.

Could The Buzzing or Ringing be Tinnitus?

It might not be your ears at all if you are wearing hearing aids, as previously mentioned. If you’re not using hearing aids, earwax could be your issue. 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? The ringing or buzzing is produced when the wax is pressing against the eardrum and suppressing its motion. Fortunately, it’s easily fixed: You can have the extra wax professionally removed. (Don’t try to do this by yourself!) Intense, prolonged buzzing or ringing is called tinnitus. There are several types of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus is a symptom of some kind of health concern and is not itself a disorder or disease. While it might be as straightforward as wax buildup, tinnitus is also linked to afflictions like depression and anxiety. Tinnitus can be eased by treating the underlying health issue; 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 occasionally, if you have a really big yawn, you hear a low rumble? It’s the sound of little muscles inside your ears which contract in order to offer damage control on sounds you create: They lessen the volume of yawning, chewing, even your own voice! We’re not claiming you chew too noisily, it’s just that those noises are so close to your ears that without these muscles, the noise level would be harmful. (And since you can’t stop chewing or speaking, we’ll stay with the muscles, thanks!) These muscles can be controlled by certain people, even though it’s quite rare, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can produce that rumble whenever they want.

Thumping or Pulsing

Your most likely not far of the mark if you at times think you hear a heartbeat in your ears. The ears have some of the bodies biggest veins running near them, and if you have an elevated heart rate, whether from a hard workout or an important job interview, your ears will pick up the sound of your pulse. Pulsatile tinnitus is the term for this, and unlike other forms of tinnitus, it’s one that not only you hear, if you go to a hearing professional, they will be able to hear it as well. If you’re experiencing pulsatile tinnitus but your pulse is not racing, you need to see a specialist because that’s not common. Like other kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is not a disease, it’s a symptom; if it persists, it could point to a health issue. But if you just had a good workout, you should not hear it when your heart rate returns to normal.

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