Hearing Services of Nashville

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

Do you ever hear crackling, buzzing, or thumping sounds that appear to come from nowhere? Possibly, if you have hearing aids, they might need a fitting or require adjustment. But if you don’t use hearing aids the noises are coming from inside your ear. There’s no need to panic. Even though we mostly think of our ears with respect to what they look like on the outside, there’s a lot more than what you see. Here are some of the more common noises you might hear inside your ears, and what they may indicate is going on. You should schedule a consultation with a hearing specialist if any of these are lessening your quality of life or are irritating and chronic, though the majority are brief and harmless.

Crackling or Popping

You may hear a popping or crackling if the pressure in your ear changes, possibly from an altitude change or from going underwater or even from a yawn. These noises are caused by a tiny part of your ear called the eustachian tube. The crackling sound happens when these mucus-lined passageways open up, allowing air and fluid to circulate and equalizing the pressure in your ears. Occasionally this automatic process is disturbed by inflammation triggered by an ear infection or a cold or allergies which gum up the ears. In serious cases, when antibiotics or decongestants don’t help, a blockage might require surgical intervention. If you’re suffering from lasting ear pain or pressure, you should probably see a professional.

Ringing or Buzzing is it Tinnitus?

It may not be your ears at all if you have hearing aids, as previously mentioned. But if you’re not wearing hearing aids and you’re hearing this kind of sound, it could be due to excess earwax. It makes sense that excessive wax may make it difficult to hear, and cause itchiness or possibly infections, but how can it make a sound? If wax is pressing on your eardrum, it can inhibit the eardrum’s ability to work properly, that’s what causes the buzzing or ringing. But not to worry, the excess wax can be professionally removed. (This is not a DIY job!) Tinnitus is the name for prolonged ringing or buzzing. There are several types of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus is a symptom of some kind of health problem and isn’t itself a disorder or disease. Besides the buildup of wax, tinnitus can also be related to anxiety and depression. Diagnosing and treating the root health problem can help relieve tinnitus; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This sound is caused by our own body and is much less common. Have you ever observed how in some cases, if you have a really big yawn, you can hear a low rumble? It’s the sound of little muscles in your ears which contract in order to provide damage control for sounds you make: They lessen the volume of yawning, chewing, even your own voice! Activities, such as yawning and chewing, are so close to your ears that though they are not very loud, they can still be damaging to your ears. (But chewing and talking not to mention yawning are not optional, it’s a good thing we have these little muscles.) These muscles can be controlled by certain people, even though it’s quite unusual, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can create that rumble at will.

Pulsing or Thumping

Your probably not far from the truth if you at times think you hear a heartbeat in your ears. Some of the body’s biggest veins run extremely close to your ears, and if your heart rate’s up, whether from that big job interview or a difficult workout, the sound of your pulse will be picked up by your ears. This is called pulsatile tinnitus, and when you consult a hearing professional, unlike other types of tinnitus, they will be able to hear it too. While it’s absolutely normal to experience pulsatile tinnitus when your heart’s racing, if it’s something you’re dealing with on a regular basis, it’s a smart move to see your physician. Like other forms of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom not a disease; there are likely health issues 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 returns to normal.

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