Do you ever hear buzzing, thumping, or crackling noises that seem to come from nowhere? If you wear hearing aids, it might mean that they require adjustment or aren’t properly fitted. But if you don’t have hearing aids the noises are coming from inside your ear. But don’t freak out. Even though we primarily think of our ears with respect to what they look like on the outside, there’s much more than what you see. Here are some of the more common noises you might hear in your ears, and what they could mean is happening. Even though most are harmless (and not long lasting), if any of these sounds are persistent, painful, or otherwise interfering with your quality of life, it’s a smart idea to consult a hearing expert.
Crackling or Popping
When there’s a pressure change in your ears, whether from altitude, going underwater or just yawning, you could hear crackling or popping sounds. These noises are caused by a small part of your ear called the eustachian tube. When the mucus-lined passageway opens enabling fluid and air to pass, these crackling sounds are produced. At times this automatic process is disturbed by inflammation triggered by an ear infection or a cold or allergies that gum the ears up. In extreme cases, when antibiotics or decongestants don’t provide relief, a blockage may require surgical treatment. If you’re experiencing chronic ear pain or pressure, you should probably consult a specialist.
Could The Ringing or Buzzing be Tinnitus?
Again, if you have hearing aids, you may hear these kinds of sounds if they aren’t fitting correctly within your ears, the volume is too loud, or your batteries are running low. If you aren’t wearing hearing aids, earwax could be your problem. Itchiness or even ear infections make sense with earwax, and it’s not unexpected that it could make hearing difficult, but how does it create these sounds? The ringing or buzzing is produced when the wax is pressing on the eardrum and suppressing its motion. The good news is, it’s easily solved: You can get the excess wax professionally removed. (This is not a DIY activity!) Tinnitus is the name for prolonged ringing or buzzing. Even noise from too much earwax is a kind of tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom of some kind of health problem and is not itself a disease or disorder. While it might be as simple as the buildup of wax, tinnitus is also associated with afflictions like anxiety and depression. Tinnitus can be relieved by treating the root health problem; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.
This one’s much less prevalent, and if you can hear it, you’re the one making the noises to happen! Do you know that rumbling you can sometimes hear when you take a really big yawn? It’s the sound of tiny muscles inside your ears which contract in order to provide damage control for sounds you create: They turn down the volume of chewing, yawning, even your own voice! We’re not claiming you chew too loudly, it’s just that those sounds are so close to your ears that without these muscles, the noise level would be harmful. (And since you can’t stop speaking or chewing, we’ll stick with the muscles, thanks!) It’s very rare, but certain people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they’re able to produce that rumble at will.
Pulsing or Thumping
Your probably not far from the truth if you at times think you hear a heartbeat in your ears. Some of the body’s biggest veins are extremely close to your ears, and if you have an elevated heart rate, whether it’s from a hard workout or an important job interview, your ears will pick up the sound of your pulse. This is known as pulsatile tinnitus, and unlike other types 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 living with on a daily basis, it’s a smart step to see your physician. Like other sorts of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease; if it persists, it may point to a health concern. Because your heart rate should go back to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate goes back to normal.