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

Do you ever hear buzzing, thumping, or crackling noises that seem to come from nowhere? Possibly, if you wear hearing aids, they might need a fitting or need adjustment. But it might also be possible that, if you don’t wear hearing aids, the sounds could be coming from your ears. But don’t stress. Our ears are a lot more complex than most of us may think. Different sounds you might be hearing in your ears could indicate different things. Here are a few of the most typical. You should schedule a consultation with a hearing specialist if any of these are lowering your quality of life or are painful and persistent, though most are short-term and harmless.

Popping or Crackling

You may hear a crackling or popping if the pressure in your ear changes, perhaps from a change in altitude or from going underwater or even from yawning. The eustachian tube, a very small part of your ear, is where these sounds originate. The crackling happens when these mucus-lined passageways open up, allowing fluid and air to circulate and relieving the pressure in your ears. It’s an automatic process, but on occasion, like when you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, your tubes can actually get gummed up. In extreme cases, where antibiotics or decongestants don’t provide relief, a blockage could call for surgical intervention. You probably should see a specialist if you have pressure or prolonged pain.

Could The Ringing or Buzzing be Tinnitus?

Once again, if you use hearing aids, you could hear these kinds of sounds if they aren’t fitting properly in your ears, the volume is too high, or your batteries are running low. If you’re not wearing hearing aids, earwax might be your problem. Itchiness or even ear infections make sense with earwax, and it’s not unexpected that it could make hearing difficult, but how does it create these noises? If wax is pressing on your eardrum, it can suppress the eardrum’s ability to function, that’s what causes the buzzing or ringing. But not to worry, the excess wax can be removed professionally. (This is not a DIY job!) Intense, prolonged ringing or buzzing is called tinnitus. There are several forms of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disorder or disease; it’s a symptom that suggests something else is going on with your health. Besides the buildup of wax, tinnitus can also be connected to anxiety and depression. Tinnitus can be eased by managing the underlying health problem; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This sound is one we cause ourself and is much less commonplace. Do you know that rumble you can sometimes hear when you have a really big yawn? It’s the sound of tiny muscles inside your ears contracting in order to provide damage control for sounds you make: They lessen the volume of yawning, chewing, even your own voice! Activities, like yawning and chewing, are so close to your ears that although they are not really loud, they can still be damaging to your ears. (And since you can’t stop chewing or speaking, we’ll stick with the muscles, thanks!) These muscles can be controlled by certain people, although it’s quite rare, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can produce that rumble whenever they want.

Pulsing or Thumping

If you at times feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat in your ears, you’re most likely right. Some of the body’s largest veins are extremely close to your ears, and if your heart rate’s high, whether it’s from that important job interview or a hard workout, the sound of your pulse will be detected by your ears. Pulsatile tinnitus is the term for this, and unlike other forms of tinnitus, it’s one that not only you hear, if you go to a hearing professional, he or she will be able to hear it as well. While it’s completely normal to experience pulsatile tinnitus when your heart’s racing, if it’s something you’re living with on a regular basis, it’s a practical decision to see your physician. Like other forms of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus isn’t a disease, it’s a symptom; if it continues, it may suggest a health concern. Because your heart rate should come back to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate comes back to normal.

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