Why do I Hear Crackling in my Ear?

HEARING TIPS

Man plugging ear with index finger because he suffers from tinnitus


Do you hear a crackling noise? Crackling, buzzing, “static”, or whooshing sounds in your ear can all be indications of a condition known as tinnitus. Here’s what you need to know.

Ever hear crackling, buzzing, or thumping sounds that seem to come from nowhere? If you use hearing aids, it can mean that they need adjustment or aren’t correctly fitted. But those sounds are most likely 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 much more going on inside than what they appear to be on the outside. Here are some of the more common sounds you may hear inside your ears, and what they may indicate is happening. Though the majority are harmless (and temporary), it’s a smart plan to see us if any of these noises are persistent, painful, or are otherwise impeding your quality of life.

What’s the cause of the snap, crackle, and pop in I’m hearing?

It isn’t Rice Krispies, that’s for certain. You might hear popping or crackling when you have a pressure change, whether from going underwater, a change in altitude, or just yawning. These sounds are caused by a small part of your ear known as the eustachian tube. When the pressure in these mucus lined passageways equalizes, the passages open up allowing air and mucus to circulate.

If you have an excess of mucus inside of these passages, frequently as a result of allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, they can become gummed-up and the ordinarily automatic process will get interrupted. In extreme cases where chicken noodle soup, decongestants, or antibiotics don’t give relief, a blockage might require surgery. If you’re experiencing persistent ear pain or pressure and haven’t been able to get any relief, you should make an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.

I’m hearing vibrations in my ear – what does that mean?

Sometimes, vibrations in the ear are an obvious sign of tinnitus. Technically, tinnitus is the medical term for when a person hears abnormal sounds, like vibrations, in their ears that don’t originate from any outside sources. Most people will refer to it as a ringing in the ears and it occurs across the spectrum, from barely there to debilitating.

Is tinnitus causing this ringing in my ears?

Again, if you wear hearing aids, you might hear these kinds of sounds for a number of reasons: the hearing aids aren’t sitting correctly within your ears, the volume is too high, or your batteries are getting low. But if you don’t have hearing aids and you’re hearing this kind of noise, it could also be due to accumulated earwax.

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

Ongoing buzzing or ringing is a sign that you are coping with tinnitus. Even buzzing from excessive earwax counts as a type of tinnitus. Bear in mind that tinnitus isn’t itself a disease or disorder, alternatively, it’s a symptom of something else going on with your health. While it could be as simple as wax buildup, tinnitus is also associated with conditions such as depression and anxiety. Diagnosing and treating the root health issue can help alleviate tinnitus, so you should speak with us to learn more about ways to minimize your symptoms.

What’s causing my ears to rumble?

This next symptom is less common than others, and if you can hear it, you’re the one causing the sound. Sometimes, if you have a really big yawn, you can 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 do that. They turn down the volume on yawning, chewing, and even your own voice.

Those sounds occur so near to your ears and so frequently that the noise level would be harmful without these muscles. One of these muscles, called the tensor tympani can, in extremely rare situations, be purposely controlled to generate this rumbling. In other cases, people suffer from tympani muscle spasms caused by tonic tensor tympani syndrome, or TTTS. Studies have revealed that TTTS occurs often in people who have tinnitus and those suffering from hyperacusis, which is a sensitivity to particular sound volumes and frequencies.

What about a fluttering sound?

After you exercise, have you ever felt a flutter in your legs and arms. Muscle spasms cause those flutters exactly like the ones in your ears. MEM tinnitus, or middle ear myoclonus, impacts the stapedius muscle and the tympani tensor muscles of the middle ear. Since this is a muscle disorder, muscle relaxers and anticonvulsants are generally used as an initial treatment to control the fluttering. Inner ear surgery to eliminate the condition is an option if the medications don’t work, but results vary from procedure to procedure.

I hear a thumping or pulsing in my ears

You’re probably not off base if you think you can hear your own pulse or heartbeat inside your ears. Some of the body’s largest veins run very close to your ears, and if your heart rate is up – whether from a hard workout, big job interview, or a medical disorder like high blood pressure – your ears will tune in to the sound of your pulse.

This is called pulsatile tinnitus, and in contrast to other forms of tinnitus, it’s one that other people can hear. Pulsatile tinnitus is easy for us to diagnose because we can listen in on your ears and hear the thumping and pulsing too. While it’s totally normal to experience pulsatile tinnitus when your heart’s racing, it should not be something you have to live with every day.

If you do experience this thumping or pulsing every day, it’s probably a good idea to come in and see us. If it continues, pulsatile tinnitus may be an indication of high blood pressure or other health conditions. Sometimes, pulsatile tinnitus is related back to a heart condition, so it’s important to relate any heart health history to us. But after a good scare or workout, your hearing should go back to normal when your heart rate returns to normal.

Why does my ear keep clicking?

The pressure inside your ears is balanced, as previously discussed, by the eustachian tubes. Repeated clicking can often be heard when you get muscle spasms in the muscles close to the eustachian tubes (like in the roof of your mouth). For a similar reason, you might hear clicking when you swallow. What you’re hearing, is the Eustachian tube opening and closing. Some people report hearing a clicking noise when their head drains of mucus. A clicking can, in rare cases point to a fracture of one of the small bones of the ears.

Does it mean I have an infection if my ears are popping?

Sometimes, an ear infection creates the feeling that your ears are clogged and the inflammation can make your ears pop. If your ears are popping, it might be a symptom of acute infection. You should make an appointment with us right away if you have any other symptoms, including ear pain, abrupt loss of hearing, or fever. Sometimes, your ears will pop in the days following an infection or cold as your head clears of mucus.

How do I stop my ears from crackling?

Do you believe that the crackling noise in your ears is tinnitus? Come in and see us and we can help you determine what treatments are best for your situation.

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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.

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