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

Ever hear crackling, buzzing, or thumping noises that appear to come out of nowhere? If you use hearing aids, it may mean that they require adjustment or aren’t properly fitted. But if you don’t wear hearing aids the noises are originating from inside your ear. There’s no need to panic. Even though we primarily think of our ears in terms of what they look like on the outside, there’s a great deal more than what you see. Different sounds you might be hearing inside of your ears could indicate different things. Here are some of the most typical. Although most are harmless (and not long lasting), if any are prolonged, irritating, or otherwise impeding your quality of life, it’s a smart idea to talk to a hearing specialist.

Crackling or Popping

When there’s a pressure change in your ears, whether it’s from altitude, going underwater or simply yawning, you may hear crackling or popping sounds. The eustachian tube, a very small part of your ear, is where these sounds are produced. The crackling sound occurs when these mucus-lined passageways open up, allowing air and fluid to circulate and equalizing the pressure in your ears. Sometimes this automatic process is disturbed by inflammation caused by an ear infection or a cold or allergies that gum up the ears. In extreme cases, when antibiotics or decongestants don’t provide relief, a blockage could require surgical intervention. You should probably consult a specialist if you feel pressure or lasting pain.

Could The Ringing or Buzzing be Tinnitus?

Once again, if you use hearing aids, you may hear these kinds of sounds if they aren’t sitting correctly in your ears, the volume is too high, or your batteries are running low. If you aren’t wearing hearing aids, earwax might be the problem. Itchiness or even ear infections make sense when it comes to earwax, and it’s not unusual that it could make hearing difficult, but how does it cause these noises? The ringing or buzzing is produced when the wax is pressing against the eardrum and inhibiting its motion. But not to worry, the excess wax can be professionally removed. (This is not a DIY procedure!) Tinnitus is the term for lasting buzzing or ringing. There are a number of forms of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus is a symptom of some kind of health problem and is not itself a disorder or disease. While it might be as simple as the buildup of wax, tinnitus is also associated with afflictions such as depression and anxiety. Tinnitus can be alleviated by managing the underlying health issue; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This sound is one we cause ourself and is much less commonplace. Have you ever noticed how in some cases, if you have a really big yawn, you hear a low rumble? There are little muscles in the ear that contract in order to reduce the internal volume of some natural actions like your own voice or yawning or chewing, It’s the tightening of these muscles in response to these natural noises that we hear as rumbling. Activities, like yawning and chewing, are so close to your ears that though they are not really loud, they can still harming your hearing. (And since never speaking or chewing isn’t a good option, we’ll stay with the muscles, thanks!) It’s extremely unusual, but some people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they’re able to produce that rumble at will.

Thumping or Pulsing

Your probably not far of the mark if you sometimes think you hear a heartbeat in your ears. Some of the body’s largest veins run extremely close to your ears, and if you have an elevated heart rate, whether it’s from that big job interview or a tough workout, your ears will pick up the sound of your pulse. This is known as pulsatile tinnitus, and unlike other kinds of tinnitus, it’s one that not only you hear, if you go to see a hearing specialist, they will be able to hear it as well. If you’re dealing with pulsatile tinnitus but you haven’t worked out recently, you need to consult a specialist because that’s not normal. Like other sorts of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus isn’t a disease, it’s a symptom; there are probably health problems 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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