What’s Causing the Crackling Noise in my Ear?

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 noises in your ears. Here’s what you should know.

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

This doesn’t mean you need to panic. Your ears have a lot more going on inside than what they appear to be on the outside. You might hear some of these common tinnitus sounds and here are some signs of what they may be telling you about your hearing. Though the majority are harmless (and short-term), it’s a good idea to see us if any of these noises are chronic, cause pain, or are otherwise diminishing your quality of life.

What’s causing the snap, crackle, and pop in I’m hearing?

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 noises. These sounds are caused by a small part of your ear called the eustachian tube. The crackling occurs when these mucus-lined passageways open, letting fluid circulate and equalize the pressure in your ears.

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 clogged from the excess mucus in your system (remember, your ears, nose, and throat are all linked). In extreme cases where chicken noodle soup, decongestants, or antibiotics don’t give relief, a blockage might require surgery. You should make an appointment with us if you can’t find any relief from the constant ear pain and pressure.

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

Sometimes, vibrations in the ear are an obvious indication of tinnitus. Technically speaking, tinnitus is the medical term for when somebody hears unusual sounds, such as 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 tinnitus causing this ringing in my ears?

Again, if you have hearing aids, you might hear these kinds of sounds for numerous reasons: the hearing aids aren’t sitting properly within your ears, the volume is too high, or your batteries are running low. But these sounds can also be produced by an excessive amount of earwax.

It makes sense that excessive wax could make it tough to hear and cause itchiness or even inner ear infections, but how can earwax make a sound? Your eardrum can be inhibited if wax is pressing against it and that can produce these sounds.

Chronic buzzing or ringing is a sign that you are coping with tinnitus. And the noises produced by earwax are actually a kind of tinnitus. Tinnitus itself is usually a symptom of something else happening with your health and isn’t itself a disease or disorder. While it could be as basic as wax accumulation, tinnitus is also associated with conditions such as depression and anxiety. Diagnosing and treating the root health problem can help relieve tinnitus, so you should contact us to find out more about ways to decrease your symptoms.

What’s causing rumbling in my ears?

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

These sounds happen so frequently, and are so close to your ears, without these muscles your ears could be damaged. In extremely rare situations, some people can control one of these muscles, the tensor tympani, and generate that rumble at will. In other cases, a condition called tonic tensor tympani syndrome (TTTS) will cause people to suffer from tensor tympani muscle spasms. Studies have revealed that TTTS happens often in people with tinnitus and those suffering from hyperacusis, which is a sensitivity to particular sound volumes and frequencies.

What causes a fluttering sound in my ear?

Have you ever felt a flutter in your legs or arms after exercising? Muscle spasms are the cause of those flutters exactly like the ones in your ears. Middle ear myoclonus, also called MEM tinnitus, is a condition that affects the above mentioned tensor tympani muscle and the stapedius muscle in your middle ear. Usually, this condition is initially controlled using muscle relaxers and anticonvulsants, since it’s a muscle condition. Inner ear surgery to eliminate the condition is an option if the medications aren’t working, but results vary from procedure to procedure.

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

You’re likely not off base if you think you hear your own pulse or heartbeat in your ears. Some of the body’s largest 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 forms of tinnitus can’t be heard by other people but that’s not the case with pulsatile tinnitus. If you come in to see us, we can listen in on your ears and we will be able to hear the pumping of your pulsatile tinnitus. While it’s absolutely normal to experience pulsatile tinnitus when your heart’s racing, it should not be something you need to live with on a daily basis.

If you do experience this pumping or pulsing daily, it’s probably a good idea to come in and see us. Like other kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom of another condition rather than a disease, so it could indicate a health concern, such as high blood pressure, if it continues. It’s essential 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 thumping as soon as your heart rate returns to normal.

Why does my ear keep clicking?

The pressure in your ears is balanced, as previously mentioned, by the eustachian tubes. If you have a muscle spasm in the muscles that surround the Eustachian tube, like for example in the roof of your mouth, it can cause a repeated clicking sound. Clicking can also take place when you swallow for similar reasons. What you’re hearing, is the Eustachian tube opening and closing. Some people report 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 an indication of infection?

Ear infections sometimes produce swelling which can cause your ears to pop. Popping in your ear can be a sign of a severe infection. You need to make an appointment with us as soon as possible if you have any other symptoms, including ear pain, abrupt hearing loss, or fever. Sometimes, your ears will pop after an infection or cold as your head drains of mucus.

How do I stop my ears from crackling?

Are you hearing a crackling in your ear and think you may have tinnitus? Make an appointment for a consultation with us to find out about treatments available to you.

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.