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

Do you ever hear sounds that appear to come from nowhere, like crackling, buzzing or thumping? Possibly, if you use hearing aids, they need a fitting or need adjustment. But it might also be possible that, if you don’t have hearing aids, the sounds could be coming from your ears. But don’t stress. Even though we usually think of our ears in terms of what we see on the outside, there’s a great deal more than meets the eye. Different sounds you might be hearing in your ears could mean different things. Here are a few of the most typical. Although the majority are harmless (and temporary), if any are lasting, irritating, or otherwise interfering with your quality of life, it’s a good idea to get in touch with a hearing expert.

Popping or Crackling

You could hear a popping or crackling if the pressure in your ear changes, perhaps from an altitude change or from going underwater or even from yawning. These sounds are caused by a tiny part of your ear called the eustachian tube. The crackling sound takes place when these mucus-lined passageways open up, letting air and fluid to circulate and equalizing the pressure in your ears. At times this automatic process is interrupted by inflammation caused by an ear infection or a cold or allergies which gum up the ears. Surgery is sometimes needed in extreme cases when the blockage isn’t improved by antibiotics or decongestants. You should probably see a hearing professional if you feel pressure or lasting pain.

Buzzing or Ringing is it Tinnitus?

Again, if you have hearing aids, you may hear these kinds of sounds if they aren’t fitting 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 type of sound, it could be because of too much earwax. It seems logical that excessive wax could make it difficult to hear, and cause itchiness or even infections, but how can it make a sound? If wax is touching your eardrum, it can suppress the eardrum’s ability to function, that’s what produces the ringing or buzzing. But not to worry, the excess wax can be professionally removed. (Don’t attempt to do this yourself!) Tinnitus is the name for prolonged ringing or buzzing. Even noise from excessive earwax is a form of tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom of some kind of health issue and is not itself a disorder or disease. While it might be as straightforward as the buildup of wax, tinnitus is also associated with conditions such as anxiety and depression. Diagnosing and treating the fundamental 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 a lot less commonplace. 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 which contract in order to offer damage control on sounds you create: They reduce the volume of chewing, yawning, even your own voice! Activities, like yawning and chewing, are so close to your ears that although they are not really loud, they can still harming your ears. (And since you can’t stop chewing or speaking, we’ll stay with the muscles, thanks!) These muscles can be controlled by certain people, though it’s very rare, they’re called tensor tympani, and they’re able to produce that rumble whenever they want.

Pulsing or Thumping

Your most likely not far from the truth if you at times think you hear a heartbeat in your ears. The ears have a few of the bodies largest veins running near them, and if you have an elevated heart rate, whether from a hard workout or an important job interview, your ears will detect the sound of your pulse. Pulsatile tinnitus is the term for this, and unlike other forms of tinnitus, it’s one that not just you hear, if you go to see a hearing expert, 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 living with on a daily basis, it’s a smart move to see a doctor. Like other kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom not a disease; if it continues, it could indicate a health issue. Because your heart rate should return to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate returns to normal.

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