HEARING TIPS

What Are Those Noises in My Ear?

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

Do you ever hear noises that appear to come out of nowhere, such as crackling, buzzing or thumping? Possibly, if you have hearing aids, they need to be fitted or need adjustment. But it could also be possible that, if you don’t use hearing aids, the sounds could be coming from your ears. But don’t panic. Even though we primarily think of our ears with respect to what we see on the outside, there’s a great deal more than meets the eye. Different noises you might be hearing in your ears could indicate different things. Here are several of the most common. Even though the majority are harmless (and temporary), if any of these sounds are lasting, painful, or otherwise interfering with your quality of life, it’s a good idea to consult a hearing expert.

Popping or Crackling

When the pressure in your ears changes, 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. The crackling sound occurs when these mucus-lined passageways open up, enabling fluid and air to circulate and equalizing the pressure in your ears. It’s an automatic process, but on occasion, like when you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, your tubes can actually get gummed up. In severe cases, when antibiotics or decongestants don’t provide relief, a blockage can call for surgical intervention. If you’re experiencing chronic ear pain or pressure, you should probably consult a specialist.

Could The Buzzing or Ringing be Tinnitus?

It might not be your ears at all if you are wearing hearing aids, as mentioned before. If you aren’t wearing hearing aids, earwax may be your problem. It seems logical that excessive wax may make it hard to hear, and cause itchiness or possibly infections, but how could it make a sound? If wax is touching your eardrum, it can restrict the eardrum’s ability to work properly, that’s what produces the ringing or buzzing. The good news is, it’s easily solved: You can get the extra wax removed professionally. (Don’t try to do this by yourself!) Tinnitus is the term for lasting buzzing or ringing. Even buzzing from excessive earwax counts as a kind of tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom of some sort of health issue and is not itself a disorder or disease. Besides the buildup of wax, tinnitus can also be connected to depression and anxiety. Diagnosing and treating the underlying health problem can help reduce tinnitus; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This sound is caused by our own body and is much less commonplace. Have you ever noticed how occasionally, if you have a really big yawn, you can hear a low rumbling? It’s the sound of tiny muscles inside your ears which contract in order to provide damage control on sounds you create: They lessen the volume of chewing, yawning, even your own voice! We’re not saying you chew too loudly, it’s just that those sounds are so close to your ears that without these muscles, the volume level would be damaging. (But chewing and talking not to mention yawning are not something we can stop doing, it’s lucky we have these little muscles.) These muscles can be controlled by certain people, even though it’s very unusual, they’re called tensor tympani, and they’re able to produce that rumble whenever they want.

Thumping or Pulsing

Your most likely not far of the mark 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 important job interview or a difficult workout, the sound of your pulse will be picked up by your ears. This is known as pulsatile tinnitus, and when you consult a hearing professional, unlike other kinds of tinnitus, they will be able to hear it as well. While it’s totally normal to experience pulsatile tinnitus when your heart’s racing, if it’s something you’re living with on a regular basis, it’s a practical decision to see a doctor. Like other kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease; if it persists, it may suggest a health concern. 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.

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