Man plugging ear with index finger because he suffers from tinnitus


Crackling in your ear? A condition called tinnitus can cause you to hear crackling, buzzing, whooshing, or other noises in your ears. Here’s what you need to know.

Do you hear phantom noises like thumping, ringing, or buzzing in your ears? If you have hearing aids, it may mean that they need adjustment or aren’t correctly fitted. But those sounds are probably coming from inside of your ears if you don’t have hearing aids.

Don’t worry there’s no need to panic. Your ears have a lot more going on inside than what they appear to be on the outside. Here are a few of the more common noises you may hear inside your ears, and what they may suggest is going on. Most of these noises are temporary and harmless but if you have tinnitus sounds that cause pain or are chronic you should schedule a consultation with us.

What’s the cause of the snap, crackle, and pop in my ear?

It isn’t Rice Krispies, that’s for certain. When the pressure in your ears changes, whether from going underwater, altitude, or just yawning, you may hear popping or crackling noises. The eustachian tube, which is a tiny tube in your ear, is the cause of these noises. When the pressure in these mucus lined passageways equalizes, the passages open up allowing air and mucus to circulate.

It’s an automatic system, but occasionally, like if you are dealing with inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, your eustachian tubes can literally get clogged from the excess mucus in your system (don’t forget, your ears, nose, and throat are all connected). There may be situations where a surgery is called for in more extreme cases where decongestants, chicken noodle soup, or antibiotics don’t help. If you’re experiencing persistent ear pain or pressure and haven’t been able to find any relief, you should make an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.

What does it mean when I hear vibrations in my ear?

Vibrations in the ear are in some cases a telltale sign of tinnitus. The word tinnitus refers to a disorder where sounds are heard in the ears but those sounds don’t originate in the outside world. Most people will refer to it as a ringing in the ears and it manifests across the spectrum, from barely there to debilitating.

Is tinnitus triggering this ringing in my ears?

Once again, if you use hearing aids, you may hear these kinds of sounds for a number of reasons: the hearing aids aren’t sitting securely within your ears, the volume is too high, or your batteries are running low. But if you don’t use hearing aids and you’re hearing this kind of noise, it could also be caused by accumulated earwax.

It seems logical that too much wax could make it hard to hear and cause itchiness or even inner ear infections, but how could earwax produce a sound? If it’s touching your eardrum, it can actually inhibit the eardrum’s ability to function, which is what triggers the buzzing or ringing.

And yes, excessive, chronic ringing or buzzing is indicative of tinnitus. And the sounds produced by earwax are actually a kind of tinnitus. Keep in mind that tinnitus isn’t itself a disorder or disease, rather, it’s a symptom of something else happening with your health. While it could be as basic as earwax buildup, tinnitus is also associated with conditions such as anxiety and depression. Diagnosing and treating the root health problem can help relieve tinnitus, so you should consult with us to find out more about ways to minimize your symptoms.

What’s causing rumbling in my ears?

This next symptom is less common than others, and if you’re hearing it, you’re the one causing the sound. Occasionally, if you have a really big yawn, you will hear a low rumble in your ears. Your body is attempting to soften sounds you make and the rumbling is your ears tensing little muscles in order to accomplish that. Some of these sounds include your own voice, chewing, and yawning.

These sounds happen so often, and are so close to your ears, without these muscles your ears could be damaged. In very rare cases, some people can control one of these muscles, the tensor tympani, and generate that rumble on cue. In other circumstances, individuals suffer from tympani muscle spasms caused by tonic tensor tympani syndrome, or TTTS. People dealing with tinnitus or hyperacusis, which is a sensitivity to specific wavelengths of sound, commonly experience TTTS.

What about a fluttering sound?

Have you ever felt a flutter in your legs or arms after exercising? Those flutters are normally caused by a muscle spasm, and it’s the same as the fluttering you hear in your ears. MEM tinnitus, or middle ear myoclonus, affects the stapedius muscle and the tympani tensor muscles of the middle ear. Since this is a muscle disorder, muscle relaxers and anticonvulsants are typically used as an initial treatment to control the fluttering. If medications aren’t helpful, inner ear surgery can have varying degrees of success.

I hear a thumping or pulsing in my ears

If you sometimes feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat pulsing in your ears, you’re most likely right. Some of the body’s biggest veins run really close to your ears, and if your heart rate is up – whether from a tough workout, big job interview, or a medical disorder like high blood pressure – your ears will pick up the sound of your pulse.

This is known as pulsatile tinnitus, and in contrast to other forms of tinnitus, it’s one that other people can hear. If you come in for a consultation, we can listen in on your ears and we will be able to hear the pumping of your pulsatile tinnitus. While it’s totally normal to experience pulsatile tinnitus when your heart’s pounding, it shouldn’t be something you need to live with on a daily basis.

If you do experience this thumping or pulsing every day, it’s probably a good idea to come in for a consultation. Like other kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom of another condition rather than a disease, so it may indicate a health problem, like high blood pressure, if it persists. It’s important to tell us about your heart health history as pulsatile tinnitus can indicate a heart condition. But if you just had a hard workout (or a good scare), you should stop hearing the pulsing or pumping as soon as your heart rate goes back to normal.

Why does my ear keep clicking?

The pressure in your ears is balanced, as previously mentioned, by the eustachian tubes. If you get a muscle spasm in the muscles that are close to the Eustachian tube, like for instance in the roof of your mouth, it can cause a repeated clicking noise. For the same reason, you might hear clicking when you swallow. What you’re hearing, is the Eustachian tube opening and closing. A clicking can sometimes be heard when mucus empties from the head. A clicking can, in rare instances point to a fracture of one of the small bones of the ears.

Does it mean I’m dealing with an infection if my ears are popping?

Ear infections sometimes produce swelling which can make your ears pop. Popping in your ear can be an indication of a severe infection. If you have any other symptoms, like ear pain, sudden hearing loss, or fever, you should schedule an appointment right away. Sometimes, your ears will pop after an infection or cold as your head clears of mucus.

How can I stop my ears from crackling?

Are you hearing a crackling in your ear and suspect you have tinnitus? Set up a consultation with us to discuss treatments available to you.

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References

https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uf9680
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24289817/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23571302/

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.