Do you ever hear noises that appear to come out of nowhere, like crackling, buzzing or thumping? If you have hearing aids, it can mean that they require adjustment or aren’t properly fitted. But if you don’t use hearing aids the noises are originating from inside your ear. There’s no need to panic. Even though we generally think of our ears in terms of what we see on the outside, there’s a lot more than what you see. Here are some of the more common noises you may hear in your ears, and what they may mean is happening. You should schedule a consultation with a hearing specialist if any of these are lowering your quality of life or are irritating and chronic, though most are brief and harmless.
Popping or Crackling
You might hear a popping or crackling if the pressure in your ear changes, possibly from a change in altitude 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 takes place 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 interrupted by inflammation triggered by an ear infection or a cold or allergies that gum up the ears. Surgery is sometimes needed in severe situations when the blockage isn’t helped by decongestants or antibiotics. You should probably see a hearing professional if you have pressure or persistent pain.
Ringing or Buzzing is it Tinnitus?
It might not be your ears at all if you have hearing aids, as mentioned before. But if you’re not wearing hearing aids and you’re hearing this type of sound, it could be because of too much earwax. Itchiness or possibly ear infections make sense with earwax, and it’s not surprising that it could make hearing difficult, but how does it produce these noises? The ringing or buzzing is caused when the wax is pushing on the eardrum and inhibiting its movement. The good news is, it’s easily fixed: You can get the excess wax removed professionally. (This is not a DIY job!) Excessive, persistent ringing or buzzing is called tinnitus. Even noise from excessive earwax counts as a kind of tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disorder or disease; it’s a symptom that indicates something else is going on with your health. While it might be as simple as the buildup of wax, tinnitus is also linked to afflictions like anxiety and depression. Diagnosing and dealing with the underlying health problem can help reduce tinnitus; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.
This sound is caused by our own body and is a lot less commonplace. Have you ever noticed how occasionally, if you have a really big yawn, you hear a low rumbling? There are little muscles in the ear that contract in order to decrease the internal volume of certain natural actions such as your own voice or yawning or chewing, It’s the contraction of these muscles in response to these natural noises that we hear as rumbling. We’re not saying you chew too noisily, it’s just that those sounds are so close to your ears that without these muscles, the volume level would be harmful. (But chewing and talking as well as yawning are not something we can stop doing, it’s a good thing we have these little muscles.) It’s very rare, but some people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they’re able to produce that rumble whenever they want.
Pulsing or Thumping
If you at times feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat in your ears, you’re most likely right. Some of the body’s biggest veins are very close to your ears, and if you have an elevated heart rate, whether from that important job interview or a hard workout, your ears will detect the sound of your pulse. Pulsatile tinnitus is the term for this, and when you go to see a hearing professional, unlike other forms of tinnitus, they will be capable of hearing it as well. If you’re dealing with pulsatile tinnitus but your pulse is not racing, you need to consult a professional because that’s not common. Like other sorts of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus isn’t a disease, it’s a symptom; if it persists, it might suggest a health issue. But if you just had a hard workout, you should stop hearing it as soon as your heart rate goes back to normal.