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

Ever hear sounds that appear to come from nowhere, like buzzing, thumping, or crackling? Perhaps, if you wear hearing aids, they need to be fitted or require adjustment. But if you don’t have hearing aids the sounds are originating from inside your ear. But don’t panic. Our ears are a lot more complex than most of us may think. Different sounds you might be hearing in your ears can indicate different things. Here are some of the most common. You should schedule a consultation with a hearing specialist if any of these are lessening your quality of life or are painful and chronic, although most are brief and harmless.

Popping or Crackling

When the pressure in your ears changes, whether from altitude, going underwater or just yawning, you may hear crackling or popping sounds. The eustachian tube, a tiny part of your ear, is where these sounds originate. The crackling sound occurs when these mucus-lined passageways open up, enabling fluid and air to circulate and relieving the pressure in your ears. It’s an automatic process, but in some circumstances, like when you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, the passageway can literally get gummed up. In severe cases, where antibiotics or decongestants don’t provide relief, a blockage can require surgical treatment. If you’re experiencing persistent ear pain or pressure, you probably should consult a professional.

Buzzing or Ringing is it Tinnitus?

Once again, if you use hearing aids, you could hear these kinds of sounds if they aren’t sitting correctly in your ears, the volume is too loud, or you have low batteries. If you aren’t using hearing aids, earwax might be your problem. It makes sense that too much wax could make it tough to hear, and cause itchiness or even infections, but how can it make a sound? If wax is pressing on your eardrum, it can restrict the eardrum’s ability to work properly, that’s what causes the ringing or buzzing. But don’t worry, the excess wax can be removed professionally. (Don’t try to do this yourself!) Tinnitus is the name for persistent buzzing or ringing. There are a few types of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disorder or disease; it’s a symptom that signifies something else is happening with your health. Besides the buildup of wax, tinnitus can also be linked to depression and anxiety. Tinnitus can be relieved by managing the root health issue; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This sound is caused by our own body and is a lot less common. Do you know that rumbling you can hear sometimes when you have a really big yawn? It’s the sound of tiny muscles inside your ears contracting in order to provide damage control on sounds you create: They reduce the volume of yawning, chewing, even your own voice! We’re not saying you chew too loudly, it’s just that those noises are so near to your ears that without these muscles, the volume level would be harmful. (But chewing and talking as well as yawning are not optional, it’s lucky we have these little muscles.) It’s very unusual, but some people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can create that rumble at will.

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 a few of the bodies largest veins running very close them, and if your heart rate’s up, whether it’s from a hard workout or an important job interview, your ears will detect the sound of your pulse. This is called pulsatile tinnitus, and when you consult a hearing professional, unlike other kinds of tinnitus, they will be able to hear it too. While it’s totally normal to experience pulsatile tinnitus when your heart’s racing, if it’s something you’re living with on a daily basis, it’s a wise decision to see a doctor. Like other sorts of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease; there are most likely health problems if it persists. Because your heart rate should come back to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate goes back to normal.

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