Do you ever hear buzzing, thumping, or crackling noises that seem to come from nowhere? If you use hearing aids, it could mean that they need to be adjusted or aren’t properly fitted. But it might also be possible that, if you don’t use hearing aids, the sounds may be coming from your ears. You don’t have to panic. Even though we usually think of our ears with respect to what they look like on the outside, there’s much more than what you see. Here are some of the more common sounds you might hear in your ears, and what they may mean is happening. You should talk with a hearing specialist if any of these are impeding your quality of life or are painful and chronic, even though the majority are temporary and harmless.
Popping or Crackling
When the pressure in your ears changes, whether from altitude, going underwater or just yawning, you could hear popping or crackling sounds. 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, enabling fluid and air to circulate and relieving 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 the ears up. In serious cases, when decongestant sprays or antibiotics don’t help, a blockage can require surgical intervention. If you’re suffering from lasting ear pain or pressure, you probably should consult a specialist.
Could The Buzzing or Ringing be Tinnitus?
Once again, if you have hearing aids, you could hear these kinds of sounds if they aren’t sitting correctly in your ears, the volume is too loud, or you have low batteries. But if you’re not wearing hearing aids and you’re hearing this kind of sound, it could be due to too much earwax. Itchiness or possibly ear infections make sense with earwax, and it’s not surprising that it could make hearing difficult, but how could it produce these sounds? The buzzing or ringing is produced when the wax is pressing against the eardrum and suppressing its motion. But don’t worry, the extra wax can be professionally removed. (This is not a DIY job!) Intense, prolonged buzzing or ringing is known as tinnitus. Even noise from too much earwax counts as a type of tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom of some sort of health problem and is not itself a disorder or disease. While it could be as straightforward as wax buildup, tinnitus is also related to conditions like depression and anxiety. Tinnitus can be alleviated by managing the underlying health issue; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.
This sound is caused by our own body and is much less commonplace. Do you know that rumble you can hear sometimes when you take a really big yawn? It’s the sound of tiny muscles in your ears which contract in order to offer damage control for sounds you make: They lessen the volume of yawning, chewing, even your own voice! We’re not saying you chew too loudly, it’s just that those noises are so near to your ears that without these muscles, the noise level would be damaging. (But chewing and talking not to mention yawning are not something we can stop doing, it’s lucky we have these little muscles.) It’s extremely unusual, but certain people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can produce that rumble whenever they want.
Pulsing or Thumping
If you occasionally feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat in your ears, you’re most likely right. Some of the body’s largest veins are very close to your ears, and if your heart rate’s up, whether it’s from a tough workout or a big job interview, your ears will detect the sound of your pulse. Pulsatile tinnitus is the term for this, and unlike other types of tinnitus, it’s one that not only you hear, if you go to see a hearing professional, he or she will be able to hear it too. While it’s completely normal to experience pulsatile tinnitus when your heart’s racing, if it’s something you’re dealing with on a daily basis, it’s a practical step to see a doctor. Like other forms of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus isn’t a disease, it’s a symptom; if it persists, it could indicate a health concern. But if you just had a hard workout, you should not hear it when your heart rate comes back to normal.