Do you ever hear sounds that appear to come out of nowhere, such as buzzing, thumping, or crackling? It’s possible, if you wear hearing aids, they might need a fitting or need adjustment. But it might also be possible that, if you don’t have hearing aids, the sounds may be coming from your ears. There’s no need to panic. Even though we mostly think of our ears in terms of 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 inside your ears, and what they may indicate is going on. You should talk with an audiologist if any of these are lowering your quality of life or are irritating and persistent, though most are brief and harmless.
Crackling or Popping
When the pressure in your ears changes, whether from altitude, going underwater or just yawning, you could hear crackling or popping noises. These sounds are caused by a small part of your ear called the eustachian tube. When the mucus-lined passageway opens to allow air and fluid to pass, these crackling sounds are produced. At times this automatic process is disturbed by inflammation brought about by an ear infection or a cold or allergies that gum the ears up. Surgery is sometimes needed in extreme situations when the blockage isn’t helped by antibiotics or decongestants. If you’re suffering from lasting ear pain or pressure, you should probably consult an audiologist.
Buzzing or Ringing is it Tinnitus?
Once more, if you have hearing aids, you may hear these kinds of sounds if they aren’t fitting properly in your ears, the volume is too high, or you have low batteries. If you aren’t wearing hearing aids, earwax may be the issue. Itchiness or even ear infections make sense when it comes to earwax, and it’s not unusual that it could make hearing challenging, but how could it create these sounds? If wax is touching your eardrum, it can restrict the eardrum’s ability to work properly, that’s what produces the buzzing or ringing. Thankfully, it’s easily solved: You can get the excess wax professionally removed. (This is not a DIY activity!) Excessive, prolonged ringing or buzzing is called tinnitus. There are several types of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. 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 dealing with the fundamental health issue can help relieve tinnitus; talk to an audiologist to learn more.
This one’s not so prevalent, and if you can hear it, you’re the one causing the sound to happen! Do you know that rumbling you can sometimes hear when you take a really big yawn? There are tiny muscles in the ear that contract in order to minimize the internal volume of certain 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. We’re not suggesting you chew too noisily, it’s just that those noises are so close to your ears that without these muscles, the noise level would be damaging. (But talking and chewing 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 some people, although it’s quite rare, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can produce that rumble at will.
Pulsing or Thumping
If you occasionally feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat inside your ears, you’re most likely right. Some of the body’s biggest veins are extremely close to your ears, and if you have an elevated heart rate, whether from that big job interview or a hard workout, your ears will detect the sound of your pulse. This is called pulsatile tinnitus, and unlike other types 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. If you’re dealing with pulsatile tinnitus but your pulse is not racing, you need to consult a professional because that’s not normal. Like other kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus isn’t a disease, it’s a symptom; there are likely health problems if it persists. 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.