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

Ever hear noises that appear to come out of nowhere, like buzzing, thumping, or crackling? If you use hearing aids, it can mean that they require adjustment or aren’t fitted properly. But it may also be possible that, if you don’t have hearing aids, the sounds may well be coming from your ears. But don’t freak out. Our ears are a lot more complex than most of us may think. Here are some of the more common noises you might hear inside your ears, and what they may mean is going on. Though the majority are harmless (and not long lasting), if any are lasting, irritating, or otherwise interfering with your quality of life, it’s a smart strategy to consult a hearing professional.

Popping or Crackling

You could hear a crackling or popping if the pressure in your ear changes, possibly from an altitude change or from going underwater or even from a yawn. The eustachian tube, a tiny part of your ear, is where these sounds originate. The crackling sound takes place when these mucus-lined passageways open up, enabling fluid and air to circulate and relieving the pressure in your ears. It’s an automatic process, but in some circumstances, like if you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, your tubes can literally get gummed up. Surgery is sometimes needed in severe situations when the blockage isn’t improved by antibiotics or decongestants. If you’re experiencing chronic ear pain or pressure, you should probably consult a professional.

Could The Buzzing or Ringing be Tinnitus?

Again, if you use hearing aids, you could hear these kinds of sounds if they aren’t fitting correctly within your ears, the volume is too high, or you have low batteries. If you’re not wearing hearing aids, earwax may be your issue. It makes sense that excessive wax may make it tough 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 causes the ringing or buzzing. Thankfully, it’s easily fixed: You can get the excess wax removed professionally. (Don’t try to do this at home!) Excessive, persistent buzzing or ringing is known as tinnitus. Even buzzing from excessive earwax counts as a form of tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom of some kind of health concern and isn’t itself a disorder or disease. While it could be as simple as the buildup of wax, tinnitus is also associated with afflictions like anxiety and depression. Diagnosing and dealing with the fundamental health problem can help lessen tinnitus; 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 sometimes, if you have a really big yawn, you hear a low rumbling? There are little muscles in the ear that contract to help minimize the internal volume of some natural actions such as your own voice or chewing or yawning, It’s the tightening of these muscles in response to these natural sounds that we hear as rumbling. We’re not saying you chew too loudly, it’s just that those sounds are so close 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.) It’s very unusual, but some people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can produce that rumble whenever they want.

Pulsing or Thumping

Your most likely not far from the truth if you sometimes think you hear a heartbeat in your ears. The ears have a few of the bodies largest veins running very close them, and if your heart rate’s high, whether from a tough workout or a big job interview, the sound of your pulse will be detected by your ears. This is known as pulsatile tinnitus, and when you consult a hearing expert, unlike other forms of tinnitus, they will be able to hear it too. If you’re dealing with pulsatile tinnitus but your pulse is not racing, you need to see a professional because that’s not common. Like other forms of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom not a disease; if it persists, it could point to a health concern. Because your heart rate should return to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate returns to normal.