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

Do you ever hear sounds that seem to come out of nowhere, like buzzing, thumping, or crackling? If you wear hearing aids, it might mean that they have to be adjusted or aren’t fitted properly. But if you don’t use hearing aids the noises are originating from inside your ear. There’s no need to panic. Even though we mostly think of our ears with respect to what we see on the outside, there’s a great deal more than what you see. Here are some of the more common noises you may hear inside your ears, and what they could indicate is going on. Though most are harmless (and not long lasting), if any of these sounds are prolonged, painful, or otherwise interfering with your quality of life, it’s a good idea to consult a hearing specialist.

Crackling or Popping

You might hear a popping or crackling 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 are produced. When the mucus-lined passageway opens allowing fluid and air to flow, these crackling sounds are produced. It’s an automatic process, but in some cases, like when you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, the passageway can actually get gummed up. In serious cases, when antibiotics or decongestants don’t help, a blockage could call for surgical treatment. If you’re experiencing chronic ear pain or pressure, you probably should see a specialist.

Buzzing or Ringing is it Tinnitus?

Once again, if you use hearing aids, you may hear these kinds of sounds if they aren’t sitting correctly within your ears, the volume is too high, or your batteries are running low. If you aren’t wearing hearing aids, earwax might be your issue. It makes sense that too much wax might make it difficult to hear, and cause itchiness or even infections, but how can it make a sound? If wax is pressing on your eardrum, it can inhibit the eardrum’s ability to function, that’s what causes the buzzing or ringing. The good news is, it’s easily solved: You can have the excess wax removed professionally. (This is not a DIY procedure!) Tinnitus is the term for persistent ringing or buzzing. Even buzzing from excessive earwax is a form of tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disease or disorder; it’s a symptom that signifies something else is taking place with your health. Besides the wax buildup, tinnitus can also be linked to anxiety and depression. Tinnitus can be eased by dealing with the root health concern; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This sound is one we cause ourself and is much less common. Do you know that rumbling you can sometimes hear when you have a really big yawn? There are little muscles in the ear that contract in order to minimize the internal volume of certain natural actions such as your own voice or chewing or yawning, It’s the contraction of these muscles in response to these natural noises that we hear as rumbling. We’re not saying you chew too loudly, it’s just that those sounds are so close to your ears that without these muscles, the volume level would be harmful. (And since never chewing or speaking isn’t a good option, we’ll stick with the muscles, thanks!) It’s extremely unusual, but certain people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can produce that rumble at will.

Pulsing or Thumping

If you at times feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat inside your ears, you’re probably right. Some of the body’s biggest veins are very close to your ears, and if your heart rate’s high, whether from that big job interview or a tough workout, your ears will pick up the sound of your pulse. This is called pulsatile tinnitus, and unlike other types of tinnitus, it’s one that not just you hear, if you go to see a hearing expert, he or she will be able to hear it as well. If you’re experiencing pulsatile tinnitus but you haven’t worked out recently, you need to see a professional because that’s not common. Like other sorts of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is not a disease, it’s a symptom; 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 comes back to normal.

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