Why do I Hear Crackling in my Ear?

Man plugging ear with index finger because he suffers from tinnitus


Do you hear a crackling noise? A condition known as tinnitus can cause you to hear buzzing, crackling, whooshing, or other noises in your ears. Here’s some info.

Ever hear crackling, buzzing, or thumping noises that seem to come from nowhere? If this is happening with hearing aids, it might mean you need to come in and get an adjustment. But if you don’t use hearing aids, those noises may just be coming from inside of your ear.

Don’t worry there’s no need to panic. 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 case, the ear. Here are some of the more common sounds you may hear inside your ears, and what they might suggest is going on. Though the majority are harmless (and temporary), it’s a smart plan to see us if any of these noises are persistent, painful, or are otherwise impeding your quality of life.

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

We can tell you one thing, it isn’t the Rice Krispies. When the pressure in your ears changes, whether from going underwater, altitude, or just yawning, you may hear crackling or popping sounds. These noises are caused by a tiny part of your ear called 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 sometimes, like if you are dealing with inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, your eustachian tubes can literally get clogged from the excess mucus in your system (remember, your ears, nose, and throat are all linked). In serious situations where decongestant sprays, chicken soup, or antibiotics don’t give relief, a blockage might call for surgery. If you’re experiencing chronic ear pain or pressure and haven’t been able to get any relief, you should schedule an appointment with us to get diagnosed.

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

Vibrations in the ear are in some cases a telltale sign of tinnitus. Technically, tinnitus is the medical term for when somebody hears unusual sounds, like vibrations, in their ears that don’t originate from any outside sources. Most individuals will refer to it as a ringing in the ears and it occurs across the spectrum, from barely noticeable to debilitating.

Is tinnitus causing this ringing in my ears?

There are also numerous reasons why you might hear these sounds if you wear hearing aids: the hearing aids aren’t sitting correctly within your ears, the volume is too loud, or your batteries are running low. But these noises can also be produced by an excessive amount of earwax.

It makes sense that excessive wax could make it hard to hear and cause itchiness or even inner ear infections, but how could earwax make a sound? If it is pressing against your eardrum, it can actually hinder the eardrum’s ability to function, which is what causes the buzzing or ringing.

And yes, excessive, chronic buzzing or ringing is indicative of tinnitus. And the sounds produced by earwax are actually a form of tinnitus. Tinnitus itself is commonly a symptom of something else happening with your health and isn’t itself a disease or disorder. Your tinnitus might be caused by simple earwax build up but it can also be associated with more severe issues such as anxiety and depression. Diagnosing and treating the underlying health issue can help alleviate tinnitus, so you should consult with us to find out more about ways to reduce your symptoms.

What’s causing rumbling in my ears?

This particular symptom is self-produced. Occasionally, if you have a really big yawn, you will hear a low rumble. Your body is attempting to soften sounds you make and the rumbling is your ears contracting little muscles in order to do that. They reduce the volume on yawning, chewing, and even your own voice.

These sounds happen so frequently, and are so close to your ears, without these muscles your ears can be damaged. In extremely rare situations, some individuals can control one of these muscles, the tensor tympani, and produce that rumble on cue. In other circumstances, a condition known as tonic tensor tympani syndrome (TTTS) will cause individuals to suffer from tensor tympani muscle spasms. People suffering from tinnitus or hyperacusis, which is a sensitivity to specific wavelengths of sound, commonly experience TTTS.

What about a fluttering sound?

Have you ever felt a flutter in your arms or legs after a workout? Those flutters are normally caused by a muscle spasm, and it’s no different from the fluttering you hear in your ears. MEM tinnitus, or middle ear myoclonus, affects the stapedius muscle and the tympani tensor muscles of the middle ear. Usually, this condition is initially controlled with muscle relaxers and anticonvulsants, since it’s a muscle condition. If medications don’t help, inner ear surgery can have varying degrees of success.

I hear a pumping or pulsing in my ears

If you occasionally feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat thump inside your ears, you’re most likely right. Your ears are really close to some major veins and arteries and if you just did a hard workout, have high blood pressure, or are very nervous you will most likely hear your own pulse.

This is called pulsatile tinnitus, and unlike other types of tinnitus, it’s one that other people can hear. If you come in to see us, we can listen in on your ears and we will be able to hear the pumping of your pulsatile tinnitus. While it’s completely normal to experience pulsatile tinnitus when your heart’s pounding, it should not be something you have to live with every day.

If you do experience this thumping or pulsing every day, it’s probably a good idea to come in and see us. If it persists, pulsatile tinnitus might be an indication of high blood pressure or other health concerns. It’s important to tell us about your heart health history as pulsatile tinnitus can point to a heart condition. But after a good scare or workout, your hearing should return to normal when your heart rate returns to normal.

What’s this clicking sound?

The pressure in your ears is kept in balance, as previously mentioned, 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 noise. Clicking can also occur when you swallow for the same reasons. This is caused by the opening and closing of the eustachian tubes. A clicking can sometimes be heard when mucus drains from the head. In some rare situations, persistent clicking could be a sign of a fracture in one of the tiny bones in your ear.

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 make your ears pop. If your ears are popping, it might be an indication of severe infection. You need to make an appointment with us right away if you have any other symptoms, like ear pain, sudden loss of hearing, or fever. Sometimes, your ears will pop in the days following an infection or cold as your head clears of mucus.

How do I stop my ears from crackling?

Are you hearing a crackling in your ear and suspect you have tinnitus? Make an appointment for a consultation with us to talk about treatments available to you.

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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