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

Ever hear buzzing, thumping, or crackling sounds that seem to come from nowhere? It’s possible, if you wear hearing aids, they need a fitting or require adjustment. But if you don’t wear hearing aids the sounds are coming from inside your ear. There’s no need to panic. Even though we mostly think of our ears with respect to what we see on the outside, there’s a great deal more than what you see. Here are some of the more common sounds you might hear inside your ears, and what they could indicate is happening. You should talk with a hearing specialist if any of these are lowering your quality of life or are irritating and chronic, though the majority are brief and harmless.

Crackling or Popping

When the pressure in your ears changes, whether from altitude, going underwater or simply yawning, you may hear crackling or popping noises. These sounds are caused by a small part of your ear called the eustachian tube. The crackling sound happens when these mucus-lined passageways open up, allowing air and fluid to circulate and relieving the pressure in your ears. Sometimes this automatic process is disturbed by inflammation triggered by an ear infection or a cold or allergies which gum the ears up. In extreme cases, where decongestant sprays or antibiotics don’t help, a blockage might require surgical intervention. You should probably consult a hearing professional if you have pressure or prolonged pain.

Could The Ringing or Buzzing be Tinnitus?

Once again, if you have hearing aids, you may hear these types of sounds if they aren’t fitting correctly in your ears, the volume is too loud, or your batteries are running low. But if you’re not wearing hearing aids and you’re hearing this kind of sound, it could be because of too much earwax. It makes sense that too much wax could make it tough to hear, and cause itchiness or possibly infections, but how could it make a sound? If wax is pressing on your eardrum, it can inhibit the eardrum’s ability to function, that’s what produces the ringing or buzzing. But not to worry, the excess wax can be removed professionally. (Don’t attempt to do this yourself!) Intense, prolonged buzzing or ringing is known as tinnitus. 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 related to anxiety and depression. Tinnitus can be relieved by managing the root health concern; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This one’s much less prevalent, and if you can hear it, you’re the actually the one making the sound to occur! Do you know that rumble you can sometimes hear when you have a really big yawn? There are tiny muscles in the ear that contract in order to decrease the internal volume of some natural actions such as your own voice or chewing or yawning, It’s the tightening of these muscles in response to these natural noises that we hear as rumbling. We’re not saying you chew too loudly, it’s just that those noises are so close to your ears that without these muscles, the noise level would be damaging. (And since you can’t stop speaking or chewing, we’ll stick with the muscles, thanks!) It’s extremely rare, but some people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they’re able to create that rumble whenever they want.

Thumping or Pulsing

If you at times feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat in your ears, you’re most likely right. The ears have some of the bodies biggest veins running very close them, and if your heart rate’s high, whether it’s from a tough workout or a big job interview, the sound of your pulse will be picked up by your ears. Pulsatile tinnitus is the term for this, and when you go to see a hearing professional, unlike other types of tinnitus, they will be able to hear it too. While it’s absolutely normal to experience pulsatile tinnitus when your heart’s racing, if it’s something you’re dealing with on a daily basis, it’s a smart decision to see your physician. Like other sorts of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease; there are likely health issues if it persists. But if you just had a good workout, you should not hear it when your heart rate comes back to normal.

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