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

Ever hear thumping, buzzing, or crackling noises that seem to come out of nowhere? It’s possible, if you wear hearing aids, they might need to be fitted or require adjustment. 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 primarily think of our ears in terms of what we see on the outside, there’s a great deal more than what you see. Different noises you might be hearing in your ears can indicate different things. Here are a few of the most prevalent. You should talk with a hearing specialist if any of these are lowering your quality of life or are painful and persistent, though most are temporary and harmless.

Crackling or Popping

When the pressure in your ears changes, whether it’s from altitude, going underwater or simply yawning, you may hear popping or crackling noises. These noises are caused by a tiny part of your ear called the eustachian tube. The crackling sound occurs 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 on occasion, like if you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, the passageway can literally get gummed up. In severe cases, where decongestant sprays or antibiotics don’t provide relief, a blockage might call for surgical intervention. You should probably see a specialist if you have pressure or persistent pain.

Could The Buzzing or Ringing be Tinnitus?

It may not be your ears at all if you have hearing aids, as previously mentioned. If you’re not using hearing aids, earwax may be the problem. Itchiness or possibly ear infections make sense with earwax, and it’s not surprising that it could make hearing challenging, but how could it cause these sounds? The buzzing or ringing is caused when the wax is pressing 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!) Intense, prolonged buzzing or ringing is known as tinnitus. Even buzzing from excessive earwax counts as a form of tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom of some sort of health concern and is not itself a disorder or disease. While it may be as straightforward as wax buildup, tinnitus is also connected to conditions such as anxiety and depression. Tinnitus can be eased by treating the root health issue; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This one’s not so prevalent, and if you can hear it, you’re the one making the noises to happen! Do you know that rumble you can hear sometimes when you take a really big yawn? There are tiny muscles in the ear that contract to help decrease the internal volume of certain natural actions like your own voice or chewing or yawning, It’s the contraction of these muscles in response to these natural sounds that we hear as rumbling. We’re not claiming you chew too noisily, it’s just that those noises are so close to your ears that without these muscles, the volume level would be damaging. (But talking and chewing not to mention yawning are not optional, it’s a good thing we have these little muscles.) These muscles can be controlled by some people, although it’s very rare, they’re called tensor tympani, and they’re able to create that rumble whenever they want.

Thumping or Pulsing

Your probably not far of the mark if you sometimes think you hear a heartbeat in your ears. Some of the body’s biggest veins run extremely close to your ears, and if you have an elevated heart rate, whether 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 see a hearing expert, 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 living with on a daily basis, it’s a smart decision to see a doctor. Like other sorts of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease; if it continues, it could suggest a health issue. Because your heart rate should return to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate comes back to normal.

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