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

Ever hear sounds that appear to come from nowhere, such as crackling, buzzing or thumping? If you wear hearing aids, it can mean that they have to be adjusted or aren’t properly fitted. But if you don’t have hearing aids the noises are coming from inside your ear. But don’t panic. Our ears are a lot more complex than most of us may think. Here are some of the more common sounds you might hear in your ears, and what they could mean is happening. Although the majority are harmless (and temporary), if any are prolonged, irritating, or otherwise interfering with your quality of life, it’s a smart strategy to get in touch with a hearing professional.

Popping or Crackling

You might hear a popping or crackling when the pressure in your ear changes, perhaps from a change in altitude or from going underwater or even from a yawn. These sounds are caused by a tiny part of your ear called the eustachian tube. The crackling sound takes place when these mucus-lined passageways open up, permitting fluid and air to circulate and relieving the pressure in your ears. Sometimes this automatic process is disturbed by inflammation triggered by an ear infection or a cold or allergies that gum up the ears. In extreme cases, when antibiotics or decongestants don’t help, a blockage might require surgical treatment. If you’re experiencing chronic ear pain or pressure, you really should see a specialist.

Buzzing or Ringing is it Tinnitus?

It may not be your ears at all if you have hearing aids, as previously mentioned. But if you’re not wearing hearing aids and you’re hearing this kind of sound, it could be due to excess earwax. It seems logical that too much wax might make it tough to hear, and cause itchiness or even infections, but how could it make a sound? The ringing or buzzing is produced when the wax is pushing on the eardrum and inhibiting its motion. Fortunately, it’s easily solved: You can get the extra wax removed professionally. (This is not a DIY task!) Tinnitus is the name for prolonged buzzing or ringing. Even noise from excessive earwax is a kind of tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disease or disorder; it’s a symptom that indicates something else is going on with your health. Besides the buildup of wax, tinnitus can also be related to anxiety and depression. Tinnitus can be alleviated by dealing with the root health issue; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This one’s less common, and if you can hear it, you’re the one causing the noises to occur! Have you ever observed how in some cases, if you have a really big yawn, you can hear a low rumbling? There are little muscles in the ear that contract in order to lessen the internal volume of some natural actions such as your own voice or chewing or yawning, It’s the tightening of these muscles in reaction to these natural noises that we hear as rumbling. We’re not suggesting 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 harmful. (And since you can’t stop speaking or chewing, we’ll stay with the muscles, thanks!) It’s very rare, but some people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they’re able to create 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. The ears have a few of the bodies largest veins running very close them, and if your heart rate’s high, whether from a tough workout or an important job interview, the sound of your pulse will be detected by your ears. Pulsatile tinnitus is the name for this, and unlike other kinds of tinnitus, it’s one that not just you hear, if you go to a hearing professional, they will be able to hear it too. While it’s absolutely normal to experience pulsatile tinnitus when your heart’s racing, if it’s something you’re dealing with on a daily basis, it’s a smart decision to see your physician. Like other forms of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is not a disease, it’s a symptom; if it continues, it may suggest a health issue. But if you just had a good workout, you should not hear it when your heart rate comes back to normal.