McDonald Hearing Services - Grand Rapids, MI
Man touching ear in response to crackling noises in his ear.

Ever hear buzzing, thumping, or crackling sounds that seem to come out of nowhere? If you wear hearing aids, it may mean that they have to be adjusted or aren’t fitted properly. But it may also be possible that, if you don’t wear hearing aids, the sounds may be coming from your ears. But don’t panic. Even though we generally think of our ears with respect to what they look like on the outside, there’s much more than meets the eye. Different noises you may be hearing inside of your ears can mean different things. Here are a few of the most prevalent. You should talk with a hearing specialist if any of these are lowering your quality of life or are painful and persistent, though the majority are temporary and harmless.

Crackling or Popping

You might hear a popping or crackling if the pressure in your ear changes, maybe from a change in altitude or from going underwater or even from yawning. The eustachian tube, a tiny part of your ear, is where these sounds are produced. When the mucus-lined passageway opens to allow air and fluid to pass, these crackling sounds are produced. At times this automatic process is disturbed by inflammation triggered by an ear infection or a cold or allergies which gum the ears up. Surgery is sometimes needed in extreme situations when the blockage isn’t improved by antibiotics or decongestants. If you’re suffering from lasting ear pain or pressure, you probably should consult a professional.

Ringing or Buzzing is it Tinnitus?

Once again, if you use hearing aids, you could hear these kinds of sounds if they aren’t sitting correctly within your ears, the volume is too high, or you have low batteries. But if you’re not wearing hearing aids and you’re hearing this type of sound, it could be due to too much earwax. It seems logical that excessive wax could make it difficult to hear, and cause itchiness or even infections, but how could it make a sound? If wax is touching your eardrum, it can suppress the eardrum’s ability to work properly, that’s what produces the buzzing or ringing. The good news is, it’s easily fixed: You can have the excess wax professionally removed. (Don’t attempt to do this by yourself!) Tinnitus is the name for persistent ringing or buzzing. There are a number of kinds of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disease or disorder; it’s a symptom that indicates something else is taking place with your health. While it could be as straightforward as wax buildup, tinnitus is also linked to afflictions like anxiety and depression. Tinnitus can be alleviated by managing the root health problem; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This one’s less prevalent, and if you can hear it, you’re the one making the sound to happen! Have you ever observed how in some cases, if you have a really big yawn, you hear a low rumbling? It’s the sound of little muscles in your ears contracting in order to provide damage control on sounds you create: They lessen the volume of yawning, chewing, even your own voice! We’re not claiming you chew too noisily, it’s just that those sounds are so near to your ears that without these muscles, the volume level would be damaging. (But chewing and talking as well as yawning are not optional, it’s a good thing we have these little muscles.) These muscles can be controlled by some people, even though it’s very unusual, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can create that rumble whenever they want.

Thumping or Pulsing

If you occasionally feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat in your ears, you’re probably right. The ears have some of the bodies largest veins running near them, and if you have an elevated heart rate, whether from a tough workout or an important job interview, your ears will detect the sound of your pulse. Pulsatile tinnitus is the name for this, and unlike other types of tinnitus, it’s one that not only you hear, if you go to see a hearing expert, they will be able to hear it too. While it’s totally 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 smart decision to see a doctor. Like other forms of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is not a disease, it’s a symptom; if it persists, it could suggest a health concern. Because your heart rate should come back to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate comes back to normal.