Hearing Services of Nashville

Man plugging ear with index finger because he suffers from tinnitus


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

Ever hear crackling, buzzing, or thumping noises that seem to come out of nowhere? If you use hearing aids, it can mean that they need adjustment or aren’t correctly fitted. But if you don’t use hearing aids, those noises might just be coming from inside your ear.

Don’t fret there’s no need to stress. Even though we mostly view our ears with respect to what we see on the outside, there’s more than meets the eye – or in this instance, the ear. You might hear some of these common tinnitus noises and here are some indications of what they may be telling you about your hearing. Most of these noises are temporary and innocuous but if you have tinnitus sounds that are painful or are chronic you should get a consultation with us.

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

We can tell you one thing, it’s not the Rice Krispies. You might hear popping or crackling when you have a pressure change, whether from going underwater, a change in altitude, or just yawning. These noises are caused by a small part of your ear known as the eustachian tube. The crackling occurs when these mucus-lined passageways open, allowing air and fluid to circulate and equalize the pressure in your ears.

It’s an automatic process, 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 overabundance of mucus in your system (keep in mind, your ears, nose, and throat are all connected). In extreme situations where chicken noodle soup, decongestants, or antibiotics don’t provide relief, a blockage might require surgical intervention. If you’re enduring 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 could that mean?

Vibrations in the ear are sometimes a telltale sign of tinnitus. Technically speaking, tinnitus is the medical name for when a person hears unusual sounds, such as vibrations, in their ears that don’t originate from any outside sources. The intensity of the sound can range from really quiet to earsplitting and most individuals will refer to it as ringing in the ears.

Is the ringing and buzzing in my ear tinnitus?

There are also several reasons why you may hear these sounds if you wear hearing aids: the hearing aids aren’t sitting properly within your ears, the volume is too high, or your batteries are running low. But these sounds can also be caused by too much earwax.

Excess earwax is well known to create itchiness and to make it harder to hear, as well as the possibility of an ear infection, but how can it create sounds. Your eardrum can be inhibited if wax is pressing against it and that can create these sounds.

And yes, excessive, persistent ringing or buzzing is indicative of tinnitus. And the sounds generated by earwax are actually a type of tinnitus. Tinnitus itself is commonly a symptom of something else going on with your health and isn’t itself a disorder or disease. Your tinnitus could be triggered by simple earwax accumulation but it can also be connected to more serious issues such as depression and anxiety. Let us help you diagnose and get some relief for your tinnitus symptoms by helping you determine what the root health condition may be.

What are the unusual rumblings i’m hearing?

This next symptom is less prevalent than others, and if you can hear it, you’re the one making the sound happen. Sometimes, you will hear a low rumble when you yawn. Your body is trying to soften sounds you make and the rumbling is your ears contracting little muscles in order to do that. Some of these sounds include your own voice, chewing, and yawning.

Those sounds occur so close to your ears and so frequently that the noise level would be harmful without these muscles. One of these muscles, known as the tensor tympani can, in extremely unusual cases, be purposely controlled to produce this rumbling. In other circumstances, individuals suffer from tympani muscle spasms caused by tonic tensor tympani syndrome, or TTTS. Individuals suffering from tinnitus or hyperacusis, which is a sensitivity to certain wavelengths of sound, commonly experience TTTS.

What about a fluttering sound?

After you exercise, have you ever felt a flutter in your legs and arms. Muscle spasms cause those flutters just like the ones 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 condition, muscle relaxers and anticonvulsants are generally used as an initial treatment to control the fluttering. If medications don’t help, inner ear surgery can have varying degrees of success.

I hear a pumping 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 high – whether from a tough workout, big job interview, or a medical disorder like high blood pressure – your ears will tune in to the sound of your heartbeat.

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

It’s a smart idea to come see us if you’re hearing this pulsing every day. Like other kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom of another ailment rather than a disease, so it might indicate a health concern, like high blood pressure, if it continues. It’s important to tell us about your heart health history as pulsatile tinnitus can point to a heart condition. But after a good scare or workout, your hearing should go back to normal when your heart rate goes back to normal.

Why does my ear keep clicking?

The pressure in your ears is kept in balance, as previously mentioned, by the eustachian tubes. If you have a muscle spasm in the muscles that surround the Eustachian tube, like for example in the roof of your mouth, it can cause a repeated clicking noise. Clicking can also occur when you swallow for similar reasons. This is a result of the opening and closing of the eustachian tubes. Some individuals report hearing a clicking sound when their head drains of mucus. A clicking can, in rare instances indicate 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 full and the swelling can make your ears pop. Popping in your ear can be an indication of an acute infection. You need to make an appointment with us as soon as possible if you have any other symptoms, including ear pain, sudden hearing loss, or fever. Sometimes, after an infection, as your head clears of mucus, your ears will pop.

Can I stop this crackling in my ears?

Do you believe that the crackling sound in your ears is tinnitus? Make an appointment for a consultation with us to find out about 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.
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