Ever hear crackling, buzzing, or thumping noises that seem to come out of nowhere? Perhaps, if you use hearing aids, they might need a fitting or require adjustment. But if you don’t wear hearing aids the noises are originating from inside your ear. But don’t stress. Even though we mostly think of our ears with respect to what they look like on the outside, there’s much more than meets the eye. Here are some of the more common sounds you might hear in your ears, and what they may indicate is happening. Even though most are harmless (and temporary), if any of these sounds are lasting, painful, or otherwise impeding your quality of life, it’s a good idea to talk to a hearing expert.
Popping or Crackling
When there’s a pressure change in your ears, whether from altitude, going underwater or simply yawning, you might hear crackling or popping noises. These noises are caused by a small part of your ear called the eustachian tube. When the mucus-lined passageway opens to allow air and fluid to flow, these crackling sounds are produced. It’s an automatic process, but sometimes, like if you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, the passageway can actually get gummed up. In serious cases, when decongestant sprays or antibiotics don’t provide relief, a blockage can require surgical treatment. If you’re suffering from lasting ear pain or pressure, you probably should see a specialist.
Could The Buzzing or Ringing be Tinnitus?
Again, if you have hearing aids, you may hear these kinds of sounds if they aren’t sitting correctly in your ears, the volume is too high, or your batteries are running low. But if you don’t have hearing aids and you’re hearing this type of sound, it could be because of excess earwax. Itchiness or possibly ear infections make sense with earwax, and it’s not unusual that it could make hearing difficult, but how does it cause these noises? If wax is pressing on your eardrum, it can inhibit the eardrum’s ability to work properly, that’s what produces the buzzing or ringing. The good news is, it’s easily solved: You can get the extra wax professionally removed. (Don’t attempt to do this at home!) Excessive, persistent buzzing or ringing is called tinnitus. Even buzzing from too much earwax counts as a kind of tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom of some kind of health concern and is not itself a disease or disorder. Besides the wax buildup, tinnitus can also be associated with anxiety and depression. Tinnitus can be relieved by treating the underlying health concern; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.
This one’s not so common, and if you can hear it, you’re the actually the one making the sound to happen! Do you know that rumble you can hear sometimes when you have a really big yawn? It’s the sound of little muscles inside your ears contracting in order to provide damage control for sounds you make: They reduce the volume of chewing, yawning, even your own voice! Activities, such as yawning and chewing, are so near to your ears that even though they are not really loud, they can still harming your hearing. (And since never speaking or chewing isn’t a good option, we’ll stay with the muscles, thanks!) These muscles can be controlled by certain people, though it’s quite rare, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can produce that rumble whenever they want.
Thumping or Pulsing
If you sometimes feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat inside your ears, you’re probably right. Some of the body’s largest veins are extremely close to your ears, and if your heart rate’s up, whether from that big job interview or a tough workout, your ears will pick up the sound of your pulse. Pulsatile tinnitus is the name for this, and unlike other kinds of tinnitus, it’s one that not only you hear, if you go to a hearing specialist, they will be able to hear it as well. While it’s absolutely 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 forms of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease; if it persists, it may suggest a health issue. Because your heart rate should go back to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate comes back to normal.