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

Ever hear noises that appear to come out of nowhere, like crackling, buzzing or thumping? If you have hearing aids, it may mean that they need to be adjusted or aren’t properly fitted. But if you don’t have hearing aids the noises are originating from inside your ear. You don’t have to panic. Even though we mostly think of our ears with respect to what they look like on the outside, there’s a great deal more than what you see. Here are some of the more common sounds you may hear inside your ears, and what they could indicate is happening. Though most are harmless (and temporary), if any of these sounds are lasting, painful, or otherwise impeding your quality of life, it’s a smart idea to talk to a hearing expert.

Popping or Crackling

When the pressure in your ears changes, whether it’s from altitude, going underwater or simply yawning, you could hear crackling or popping noises. These noises are caused by a tiny part of your ear called the eustachian tube. When the mucus-lined passageway opens enabling air and fluid to flow, these crackling sounds are produced. At times this automatic process is disturbed by inflammation triggered by an ear infection or a cold or allergies which gum the ears up. sometimes surgery is needed in severe cases when the blockage isn’t improved by decongestants or antibiotics. You probably should see a specialist if you feel pressure or prolonged pain.

Could The Buzzing or Ringing be Tinnitus?

It might not be your ears at all if you are wearing hearing aids, as previously mentioned. If you’re not wearing hearing aids, earwax could be your problem. Itchiness or possibly ear infections make sense with earwax, and it’s not surprising that it could make hearing challenging, but how does it create these sounds? The ringing or buzzing is caused when the wax is pushing on the eardrum and inhibiting its movement. But not to worry, the extra wax can be removed professionally. (This is not a DIY activity!) Excessive, prolonged ringing or buzzing is called tinnitus. Even noise from excessive earwax counts as a type of tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom of some sort of health problem and isn’t itself a disease or disorder. Besides the buildup of wax, tinnitus can also be associated with depression and anxiety. Diagnosing and treating the fundamental health problem can help alleviate tinnitus; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This one’s less common, and if you can hear it, you’re the one making the noises to occur! Do you know that rumbling you can hear sometimes when you have a really big yawn? There are little muscles in the ear that contract to help decrease the internal volume of certain natural actions like your own voice or yawning or chewing, It’s the tightening of these muscles in reaction to these natural noises that we hear as rumbling. We’re not claiming you chew too loudly, it’s just that those sounds are so near to your ears that without these muscles, the noise level would be harmful. (And since never chewing or speaking isn’t a good solution, we’ll stick with the muscles, thanks!) It’s extremely unusual, but some people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can produce that rumble at will.

Thumping or Pulsing

Your most likely not far of the mark if you at times think you hear a heartbeat in your ears. Some of the body’s biggest veins run extremely close to your ears, and if your heart rate’s up, whether it’s from a hard workout or an important job interview, the sound of your pulse will be picked up by your ears. 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, they will be able to hear it as well. While it’s absolutely normal to experience pulsatile tinnitus when your heart’s racing, if it’s something you’re dealing with on a regular basis, it’s a smart decision to see your physician. Like other kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus isn’t a disease, it’s a symptom; there are most likely health problems if it persists. Because your heart rate should return to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate goes back to normal.