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

Do you ever hear sounds that appear to come out of nowhere, like crackling, buzzing or thumping? If you have hearing aids, it might mean that they require adjustment or aren’t properly fitted. But if you don’t wear hearing aids the noises are coming from inside your ear. But don’t stress. Even though we commonly think of our ears with respect to what they look like on the outside, there’s a lot more than meets the eye. Here are some of the more common sounds you may hear inside your ears, and what they may mean is happening. Although the majority are harmless (and temporary), if any are prolonged, irritating, or otherwise impeding your quality of life, it’s a good strategy to consult a hearing specialist.

Crackling or Popping

You could hear a crackling or popping if the pressure in your ear changes, maybe from an altitude change or from swimming underwater or even from a yawn. These sounds are caused by a small part of your ear called the eustachian tube. The crackling takes place when these mucus-lined passageways open up, permitting fluid and air to circulate and relieving the pressure in your ears. It’s an automatic process, but in some cases, like if you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, the passageway can literally get gummed up. In extreme cases, where antibiotics or decongestants don’t provide relief, a blockage might require surgical intervention. You probably should consult a hearing professional if you feel pressure or prolonged pain.

Could The Buzzing or Ringing be Tinnitus?

It may not be your ears at all if you are wearing hearing aids, as previously mentioned. But if you’re not wearing hearing aids and you’re hearing this kind of sound, it could be because of too much earwax. Itchiness or possibly ear infections make sense when it comes to earwax, and it’s not unusual that it could make hearing challenging, but how could it create these noises? The ringing or buzzing is caused when the wax is pushing on the eardrum and inhibiting its movement. But not to worry, the excess wax can be professionally removed. (This is not a DIY job!) Intense, prolonged buzzing or ringing is called tinnitus. There are a few kinds of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disorder or disease; it’s a symptom that indicates something else is taking place with your health. Besides the buildup of wax, tinnitus can also be related to anxiety and depression. Tinnitus can be eased by managing the underlying 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 one causing the noises to happen! Have you ever observed how in some cases, if you have a really big yawn, you hear a low rumble? There are little muscles in the ear that contract in order to lessen the internal volume of some natural actions like your own voice or yawning or chewing, It’s the contraction of these muscles in response to these natural sounds that we hear as rumbling. We’re not saying you chew too noisily, it’s just that those noises are so close to your ears that without these muscles, the volume level would be harmful. (And since never speaking or chewing isn’t a good solution, we’ll stay with the muscles, thanks!) It’s very unusual, but certain people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they’re able to produce that rumble at will.

Pulsing or Thumping

Your most likely not far of the mark if you sometimes think you hear a heartbeat in your ears. The ears have some of the bodies largest veins running very close them, and if you have an elevated heart rate, whether from that big job interview or a difficult workout, the sound of your pulse will be picked up by your ears. Pulsatile tinnitus is the term for this, and unlike other kinds of tinnitus, it’s one that not just you hear, if you go to see a hearing expert, they will be able to hear it as well. If you’re dealing with pulsatile tinnitus but you haven’t worked out recently, you need to consult a professional because that’s not normal. Like other forms of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is not a disease, it’s a symptom; there are most likely health problems if it persists. But if you just had a hard workout, you should stop hearing it as soon as your heart rate comes back to normal.

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