Man plugging ear with index finger because he suffers from tinnitus


Crackling in your ear? A condition known as tinnitus can cause you to hear buzzing, crackling, whooshing, or other sounds in your ears. Here’s what you need to know.

Ever hear crackling, buzzing, or thumping sounds that seem to come from nowhere? If this is occurring with hearing aids, it might mean you need to come in and get an adjustment. But if you don’t have hearing aids, those sounds might just be coming from inside of your ear.

This doesn’t mean you need to panic. Even though we generally think of our ears in terms of what we see on the outside, there’s more than meets the eye – or in this case, the ear. You may hear some of these prevalent tinnitus sounds and here are some signs of what they may be telling you about your hearing. Though most are harmless (and short-term), it’s a smart plan to see us if any of these noises are chronic, cause pain, or are otherwise diminishing your quality of life.

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

It’s not Rice Krispies, that’s for certain. When the pressure in your ears changes, whether from altitude, going underwater, or just yawning, you could hear popping or crackling sounds. The eustachian tube, which is a tiny tube in your ear, is the cause of these sounds. When the pressure in these mucus lined passageways equalizes, the passages open up allowing air and mucus to circulate.

It’s an automatic system, but occasionally, like if you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, your eustachian tubes can literally get gummed up from the excess mucus in your system (don’t forget, your ears, nose, and throat are all linked). In extreme cases where decongestant sprays, chicken soup, or antibiotics don’t provide relief, a blockage might require surgical intervention. You should schedule an appointment with us if you can’t find any relief from the nagging ear pain and pressure.

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

In some cases, vibrations in the ear are an obvious indication 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 earsplitting and most people will refer to it as ringing in the ears.

Is the buzzing and ringing in my ear tinnitus?

There are also numerous reasons why you might hear these sounds if you use hearing aids: your batteries may be getting 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 type of noise, it could also be caused by excess earwax.

It makes sense that excessive wax could make it difficult to hear and cause itchiness or even inner ear infections, but how could earwax make a sound? If it’s touching your eardrum, it can actually inhibit the eardrum’s ability to function, which is what produces the buzzing or ringing.

Ongoing buzzing or ringing is an indication that you are coping with tinnitus. Even buzzing from excessive earwax counts as a type of tinnitus. Tinnitus itself is usually a symptom of something else happening with your health and isn’t itself a disease or disorder. Your tinnitus may be caused by simple earwax accumulation but it can also be linked to more serious issues such as depression and anxiety. Diagnosing and treating the root health problem can help alleviate tinnitus, so you should consult with us to learn more about ways to minimize your symptoms.

What’s causing my ears to rumble?

This specific symptom is self-created. In some cases, you will hear a low rumble when you yawn. That rumble is the sound of little muscles inside your ears contracting in order to soften sounds you make. Some of these sounds include your own voice, chewing, and yawning.

These sounds happen so frequently, and are so close to your ears, without these muscles your ears can be damaged. In very rare situations, some individuals can control one of these muscles, the tensor tympani, and produce that rumble at will. In other cases, individuals suffer from tympani muscle spasms caused by tonic tensor tympani syndrome, or TTTS. Individuals suffering from tinnitus or hyperacusis, which is a sensitivity to specific wavelengths of sound, commonly experience TTTS.

What about a fluttering sound?

Have you ever felt a flutter in your legs or arms after a workout? Muscle spasms are the cause of those flutters just like the ones in your ears. MEM tinnitus, or middle ear myoclonus, affects 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 disorder. If medications don’t help, inner ear surgery can have varying degrees of success.

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

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

This is called pulsatile tinnitus, and in contrast to other types of tinnitus, it’s one that other people can hear. Pulsatile tinnitus is easy for us to diagnose because we can listen in on your ears and hear the pumping and pulsing too. If your heart is racing, it’s not abnormal to hear your own heartbeat, but if you’re hearing this pumping at other times that isn’t normal.

It’s a good idea to come in for a consultation if you’re hearing this pulsing every day. Like other kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom of another ailment rather than a disease, so it could indicate a health concern, such as high blood pressure, if it persists. It’s important to tell us about your heart health history as pulsatile tinnitus can indicate a heart condition. But if you just had a hard workout (or a good scare), you should stop hearing the pulsing or pumping as soon as your heart rate returns to normal.

Why does my ear keep clicking?

As noted above, the Eustachian tube helps keep equal pressure in your ears. Repeated clicking can frequently be heard when you get muscle spasms in the muscles near the eustachian tubes (like in the roof of your mouth). For a similar reason, you might hear clicking when you swallow. This is due to the opening and closing of the eustachian tubes. Some individuals report hearing a clicking noise when their head drains of mucus. A clicking can, in rare cases point to a fracture of one of the small bones of the ears.

Does it mean I’m dealing with an infection if my ears are popping?

Sometimes, an ear infection causes the feeling that your ears are full and the inflammation can make your ears pop. Popping in your ear can be a sign of an acute infection. You should make an appointment with us right away if you have any other symptoms, like ear pain, sudden hearing loss, or fever. Sometimes, after an infection, as your head clears of mucus, your ears will pop.

Can I stop this crackling in my ears?

Are you hearing a crackling in your ear and suspect you have tinnitus? Come in and consult with us and we can help you learn what treatments are best for your situation.

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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.