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

Ever hear noises that appear to come from nowhere, like buzzing, thumping, or crackling? If you wear hearing aids, it could mean that they need to be adjusted or aren’t properly fitted. But it might also be possible that, if you don’t use hearing aids, the sounds may be coming from your ears. You don’t have to panic. Our ears are a lot more complex than most of us may think. Different noises you might be hearing in your ears could mean different things. Here are some of the most common. You should schedule a consultation with a hearing specialist if any of these are impeding your quality of life or are painful and persistent, although most are short-term and harmless.

Crackling or Popping

You might hear a popping or crackling when the pressure in your ear changes, possibly from an altitude change or from swimming underwater or even from a yawn. These sounds 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, letting air and fluid to circulate and relieving the pressure in your ears. At times this automatic process is interrupted by inflammation caused by an ear infection or a cold or allergies that gum up the ears. In severe cases, where antibiotics or decongestants don’t help, a blockage might require surgical treatment. You should probably consult a specialist if you feel pressure or chronic pain.

Buzzing or Ringing is it Tinnitus?

It may not be your ears at all if you are wearing hearing aids, as mentioned before. But if you’re not wearing hearing aids and you’re hearing this kind of sound, it could be because of excess earwax. It seems logical that excessive wax might make it hard to hear, and cause itchiness or possibly infections, but how can it make a sound? If wax is touching your eardrum, it can inhibit the eardrum’s ability to function, that’s what causes the ringing or buzzing. But don’t worry, the excess wax can be professionally removed. (This is not a DIY job!) Tinnitus is the name for prolonged ringing or buzzing. Even buzzing from too much earwax counts as a type of tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom of some sort of health issue and is not itself a disease or disorder. While it may be as straightforward as the buildup of wax, tinnitus is also connected to afflictions like depression and anxiety. Diagnosing and treating the root health issue can help alleviate tinnitus; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This one’s less prevalent, and if you can hear it, you’re the actually the one making the noises to occur! Have you ever observed how in some cases, if you have a really big yawn, you can hear a low rumbling? There are tiny muscles in the ear that contract to help decrease the internal volume of some natural actions such as your own voice or chewing or yawning, It’s the contraction of these muscles in reaction to these natural noises that we hear as rumbling. Activities, like yawning and chewing, are so close to your ears that even though they are not very loud, they can still harming your hearing. (But chewing and talking not to mention yawning are not something we can stop doing, it’s lucky we have these little muscles.) It’s extremely unusual, but certain people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can create that rumble at will.

Thumping or Pulsing

Your probably not far from the truth if you sometimes think you hear a heartbeat in your ears. Some of the body’s biggest veins run very close to your ears, and if your heart rate’s up, whether from that big job interview or a tough workout, your ears will pick up the sound of your pulse. This is called pulsatile tinnitus, and when you go to see a hearing expert, unlike other kinds of tinnitus, they will be able to hear it also. While it’s completely 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 a doctor. Like other forms of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease; if it continues, it may point to a health concern. But if you just had a hard workout, you should stop hearing it as soon as your heart rate returns to normal.

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