Why do I Hear Crackling in my Ear?

Man plugging ear with index finger because he suffers from tinnitus


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

Ever hear crackling, buzzing, or thumping sounds that seem to come from nowhere? If this is occurring with hearing aids, it might mean you need to come in and get an adjustment. But those noises are most likely coming from inside your ears if you don’t have hearing aids.

Don’t worry there’s no need to stress. Even though we typically think of our ears in terms of what we see externally, there’s more than meets the eye – or in this instance, the ear. Here are a few of the more common sounds you might hear inside of your ears, and what they might suggest is happening. Most of these noises are short-term and harmless but if you have tinnitus noises that are painful or are chronic you should schedule a consultation with us.

There’s a snap, crackle, and pop in my ears but what’s the cause?

It’s not Rice Krispies, that’s for sure. When the pressure inside of your ears changes, whether from altitude, going underwater, or just yawning, you might hear popping or crackling sounds. 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.

It’s an automatic process, but occasionally, like if you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, your eustachian tubes can literally get clogged from the excess mucus in your system (don’t forget, your ears, nose, and throat are all linked). In extreme cases where chicken noodle soup, decongestants, or antibiotics don’t give relief, a blockage may call for surgery. You should schedule an appointment with us if you can’t get any relief from the nagging ear pain and pressure.

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

In some cases, vibrations in the ear are an obvious symptom of tinnitus. Technically speaking, tinnitus is the medical term for when a person hears unusual noises, like vibrations, in their ears that do not come from any outside sources. The intensity level of the sound can range from extremely quiet to deafening and most people will refer to it as ringing in the ears.

Is the ringing and buzzing in my ear tinnitus?

Once again, if you wear hearing aids, you might hear these kinds of sounds for numerous reasons: your batteries might be getting low, you need a volume adjustment, or perhaps your hearing aids aren’t fitting properly in your ear. But if you don’t have hearing aids and you’re hearing this type of noise, it could also be caused by excess earwax.

Accumulated earwax is well known to create itchiness and to make it more challenging to hear, as well as the potential of an ear infection, but how can it produce sounds. Your eardrum can be inhibited if wax is pressing against it and that can generate these sounds.

Persistent buzzing or ringing is a sign that you are dealing with tinnitus. Even ringing from excessive earwax counts as a type of tinnitus. Tinnitus itself is typically a symptom of something else going on with your health and isn’t itself a disease or disorder. Your tinnitus could be triggered by simple earwax accumulation but it can also be connected to more serious issues like depression and anxiety. Let us help you diagnose and find some relief for your tinnitus symptoms by helping you discover what the underlying health condition might be.

What’s causing my ears to rumble?

This next symptom is less prevalent than others, and if you can hear it, you’re the one making the sound happen. Sometimes, if you have a really big yawn, you will hear a low rumble in your ears. 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 often that the noise level would be harmful without these muscles. One of these muscles, called the tensor tympani can, in very 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. Individuals dealing with tinnitus or hyperacusis, which is a sensitivity to specific wavelengths of sound, frequently experience TTTS.

What about a fluttering sound?

After you exercise, have you ever felt a flutter in your legs and arms. Muscle spasms are the cause of 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 condition, muscle relaxers and anticonvulsants are commonly 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 success varies from procedure to procedure.

Why are my ears drumming, thumping, and pulsing so much?

You’re likely not off base if you think you hear your own pulse or heartbeat inside your ears. Some of the body’s biggest veins run really close to your ears, and if your heart rate is high – whether from a hard workout, big job interview, or a medical disorder like high blood pressure – your ears will pick up 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 as well. If your heart is pounding, it’s not abnormal to hear your own pulse, but if you’re hearing this pumping at other times that’s not normal.

If you do experience this thumping or pulsing daily, it’s probably a good idea to come in for a consultation. Like other forms of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom of another ailment rather than a disease, so it could indicate a health problem, such as high blood pressure, if it continues. It’s important to tell us about your heart health history as pulsatile tinnitus can indicate a heart condition. But if you just had a hard workout (or a good scare), you should stop hearing the pulsing or pumping as soon as your heart rate returns to normal.

What’s this clicking sound?

The pressure inside your ears is balanced, as previously discussed, by the eustachian tubes. If you get a muscle spasm in the muscles that surround the Eustachian tube, like for example in the roof of your mouth, it can trigger a repeated clicking sound. For the same reason, you might hear clicking when you swallow. This is caused by the opening and closing of the eustachian tubes. Some people describe hearing a clicking noise when their head drains of mucus. A clicking can, in rare instances indicate a fracture of one of the fragile bones of the ears.

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

Sometimes, an ear infection produces the feeling that your ears are clogged and the swelling can cause your ears to pop. Popping in your ear can be a symptom of a severe infection. If you have any other symptoms, such as pain in the ear, abrupt hearing loss, or fever, you should schedule an appointment immediately. Sometimes, after an infection, as your head clears of mucus, your ears will pop.

How can I stop my ears from crackling?

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

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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