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

Ever hear buzzing, thumping, or crackling sounds that appear to come out of nowhere? If you use hearing aids, it can mean that they require adjustment or aren’t properly fitted. But if you don’t wear hearing aids the sounds are coming from inside your ear. You don’t have to panic. Even though we usually think of our ears with respect to what they look like on the outside, there’s a lot more than meets the eye. Different sounds you might be hearing in your ears could mean different things. Here are some of the most typical. Though most are harmless (and temporary), if any of these sounds are prolonged, irritating, or otherwise interfering with your quality of life, it’s a smart idea to get in touch with a hearing expert.

Crackling or Popping

When there’s a pressure change in your ears, whether it’s from altitude, going underwater or just yawning, you may hear popping or crackling sounds. These noises are caused by a small part of your ear called the eustachian tube. The crackling sound takes place when these mucus-lined passageways open up, allowing fluid and air to circulate and relieving the pressure in your ears. It’s an automatic process, but sometimes, like when you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, your tubes can literally get gummed up. In serious cases, where antibiotics or decongestants don’t help, a blockage may require surgical treatment. If you’re having chronic ear pain or pressure, you probably should consult a specialist.

Buzzing or Ringing is it Tinnitus?

It might not be your ears at all if you are wearing hearing aids, as mentioned before. If you aren’t using hearing aids, earwax might be the issue. It makes sense that too much wax may make it difficult to hear, and cause itchiness or even infections, but how could it make a sound? If wax is pressing on your eardrum, it can restrict the eardrum’s ability to work properly, that’s what causes the buzzing or ringing. The good news is, it’s easily fixed: You can have the extra wax professionally removed. (Don’t try to do this at home!) Excessive, persistent ringing or buzzing is called tinnitus. There are several kinds of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disorder or disease; it’s a symptom that signifies something else is going on with your health. Besides the wax buildup, tinnitus can also be associated with depression and anxiety. Diagnosing and dealing with the fundamental health issue can help relieve tinnitus; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This sound is one we cause ourself and is much less common. Have you ever observed 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 reduce 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 sounds that we hear as rumbling. Activities, like yawning and chewing, are so near to your ears that though they are not very loud, they can still harming your hearing. (But talking and chewing as well as yawning are not something we can stop doing, it’s lucky we have these little muscles.) These muscles can be controlled by some people, even though it’s very rare, they’re called tensor tympani, and they’re able to create that rumble whenever they want.

Pulsing or Thumping

If you occasionally feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat inside your ears, you’re most likely right. Some of the body’s biggest veins run extremely close to your ears, and if your heart rate’s high, whether it’s from that important job interview or a hard workout, your ears will detect the sound of your pulse. Pulsatile tinnitus is the name for this, and unlike other forms of tinnitus, it’s one that not just you hear, if you go to a hearing specialist, he or she 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 see a specialist because that’s not common. Like other sorts of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus isn’t a disease, it’s a symptom; there are likely health problems if it continues. 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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