Why do I Hear Crackling in my Ear?

Man plugging ear with index finger because he suffers from tinnitus


Do you hear a crackling noise? A condition known as tinnitus can cause you to hear crackling, buzzing, whooshing, or other noises in your ears. Here’s some info.

Ever hear crackling, buzzing, or thumping noises that seem to come from nowhere? If this is happening with hearing aids, it might mean you need to come in and get an adjustment. But those noises are most likely coming from inside of your ears if you don’t use hearing aids.

Don’t worry there’s no need to panic. Your ears have much more going on inside than what they appear to be externally. Here are a few of the more common sounds you might hear inside your ears, and what they might suggest is happening. Though most are harmless (and short-term), it’s a smart idea to see us if any of these noises are chronic, painful, or are otherwise impeding your quality of life.

There’s a snap, crackle, and pop in my ears but what’s the cause?

We can tell you one thing, it isn’t the Rice Krispies. When the pressure in your ears changes, whether from altitude, going underwater, or just yawning, you might hear popping or crackling sounds. The eustachian tube, which is a small tube in your ear, is the cause of these noises. The crackling happens when these mucus-lined passageways open, letting fluid circulate and equalize the pressure inside your ears.

If you have too much mucus inside of these passages, often due to allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, they can become gummed-up and the ordinarily automatic process will get disrupted. In extreme situations where chicken noodle soup, decongestants, or antibiotics don’t give relief, a blockage might call for surgical intervention. If you’re suffering from persistent ear pain or pressure and haven’t been able to get any relief, you should make an appointment with us to get a diagnosis.

I’m hearing vibrations in my ear – what could that mean?

In some cases, vibrations in the ear are an obvious sign of tinnitus. Technically, tinnitus is the medical term for when someone hears abnormal noises, like vibrations, in their ears that do not come from any external sources. The intensity of the sound can range from extremely quiet to deafening and most people will refer to it as ringing in the ears.

Is the buzzing and ringing in my ear tinnitus?

Once again, if you use hearing aids, you might hear these kinds of sounds for numerous reasons: your batteries might be running low, you need a volume adjustment, or maybe your hearing aids aren’t fitting properly in your ear. But if you don’t use hearing aids and you’re hearing this kind of noise, it could also be due to excess earwax.

Excess earwax is well known to cause itchiness and to make it more difficult to hear, as well as the potential of an ear infection, but how can it create sounds. Your eardrum can be impeded if wax is pressing against it and that can produce these sounds.

And yes, excessive, chronic buzzing or ringing is indicative of tinnitus. Even buzzing from excessive earwax counts as a type of tinnitus. Bear in mind that tinnitus isn’t itself a disease or disorder, instead, it’s a symptom of something else going on with your health. While it could be as basic as earwax buildup, tinnitus is also linked with conditions such as anxiety and depression. Diagnosing and treating the root health issue can help relieve tinnitus, so you should speak with us to learn more about ways to minimize your symptoms.

What’s causing my ears to rumble?

This next symptom is less common than others, and if you can hear it, you’re the one making the sound happen. Sometimes, you will hear a low rumble when you yawn. That rumble is the sound of tiny muscles inside of your ears contracting in order to soften sounds you make. They reduce the volume on yawning, chewing, and even your own voice.

Those sounds manifest so close to your ears and so often that the level of noise would be damaging without these muscles. One of these muscles, called the tensor tympani can, in extremely rare cases, be intentionally controlled to generate this rumbling. In other circumstances, a condition called tonic tensor tympani syndrome (TTTS) will cause people to suffer from tensor tympani muscle spasms. Studies have shown that TTTS happens often in individuals with tinnitus and those suffering from hyperacusis, which is a sensitivity to specific sound volumes and wavelengths.

What about a fluttering noise?

After you exercise, have you ever felt a flutter in your arms and legs. Those flutters are typically caused by a muscle spasm, and it’s no different from the fluttering you hear in your ears. MEM tinnitus, or middle ear myoclonus, impacts the stapedius muscle and the tympani tensor muscles of the middle ear. Usually, this condition is initially managed with muscle relaxers and anticonvulsants, since it’s a muscle condition. Inner ear surgery to correct the condition is an alternative if the medications aren’t working, but results vary from procedure to procedure.

Why are my ears drumming, thumping, and pulsing so much?

If you occasionally feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat pulsing in your ears, you’re probably right. Some of the body’s biggest veins run really close to your ears, and if your heart rate is high – whether from a tough workout, big job interview, or a medical condition like high blood pressure – your ears will pick up the sound of your pulse.

Most kinds of tinnitus can’t be heard by other people but that isn’t the situation with pulsatile tinnitus. Pulsatile tinnitus is not difficult for us to diagnose because we can listen in on your ears and hear the pumping and pulsing as well. While it’s absolutely normal to experience pulsatile tinnitus when your heart’s pounding, it shouldn’t be something you have to live with on a daily basis.

If you do experience this pumping or pulsing every day, it’s probably a good idea to come in for a consultation. If it persists, pulsatile tinnitus could be an indication of high blood pressure or other health concerns. In some cases, pulsatile tinnitus is related back to a heart condition, so it’s important to relate any heart health history to us. But if you just had a hard workout (or a good scare), you should stop hearing the pulsing or thumping as soon as your heart rate returns to normal.

What’s this clicking sound?

The pressure inside your ears is balanced, as previously discussed, by the eustachian tubes. If you have a muscle spasm in the muscles that are close to the Eustachian tube, like for example in the roof of your mouth, it can cause a repeated clicking noise. For a similar reason, you might hear clicking when you swallow. What you’re hearing, is the Eustachian tube opening and closing. Some people describe hearing a clicking noise when their head drains of mucus. A clicking can, in rare instances point to a fracture of one of the fragile bones of the ears.

Is ear popping a symptom of infection?

Ear infections sometimes generate swelling which can cause your ears to pop. If your ears are popping, it could be an indication of acute infection. You should schedule an appointment with us right away if you have any other symptoms, including ear pain, sudden hearing loss, or fever. Sometimes, your ears will pop after an infection or cold as your head clears of mucus.

Can I stop this crackling in my ears?

Do you suspect that the crackling sound in your ears is tinnitus? Come in and see us and we can help you learn what treatments are best for your situation.

References

https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uf9680
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24289817/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23571302/

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.