HEARING TIPS

What Are Those Sounds in My Ear?

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

Ever hear sounds that seem to come from nowhere, such as crackling, buzzing or thumping? If you wear hearing aids, it could mean that they require adjustment or aren’t fitted properly. But it could also be possible that, if you don’t wear hearing aids, the sounds might be coming from your ears. But don’t freak out. Even though we mostly think of our ears in terms of what they look like on the outside, there’s a great deal more than what you see. Different noises you might be hearing inside of your ears can indicate different things. Here are some of the most typical. You should talk with a hearing specialist if any of these are lowering your quality of life or are irritating and persistent, though the majority are brief and harmless.

Crackling or Popping

When there’s a pressure change in your ears, whether it’s from altitude, going underwater or simply yawning, you may hear popping or crackling noises. The eustachian tube, a tiny part of your ear, is where these sounds are produced. When the mucus-lined passageway opens enabling air and fluid to pass, these crackling sounds are produced. It’s an automatic process, but on occasion, like if you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, your tubes can literally get gummed up. In severe cases, where decongestant sprays or antibiotics don’t provide relief, a blockage may call for surgical intervention. You probably should consult a specialist if you have pressure or lasting pain.

Ringing or Buzzing is it Tinnitus?

It might not be your ears at all if you are wearing hearing aids, as previously mentioned. But if you don’t have hearing aids and you’re hearing this kind of sound, it could be because of excess earwax. 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 does it create these noises? If wax is pressing on your eardrum, it can suppress the eardrum’s ability to work properly, that’s what produces the buzzing or ringing. The good news is, it’s easily solved: You can have the extra wax professionally removed. (This is not a DIY task!) Tinnitus is the name for persistent buzzing or ringing. Even noise from too much earwax is a type of tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disorder or disease; it’s a symptom that suggests something else is taking place with your health. Besides the buildup of wax, tinnitus can also be connected to depression and anxiety. Diagnosing and treating the fundamental health problem can help relieve tinnitus; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.

Rumbling

This one’s not so prevalent, and if you can hear it, you’re the one making the sound to happen! Have you ever noticed how sometimes, if you have a really big yawn, you can hear a low rumble? It’s the sound of tiny muscles in your ears which contract in order to offer damage control on sounds you make: They lessen the volume of yawning, chewing, even your own voice! Activities, including yawning and chewing, are so close to your ears that even though they are not very loud, they can still be damaging to your hearing. (But chewing and talking as well as yawning are not optional, it’s a good thing we have these little muscles.) It’s extremely unusual, but some people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they’re able to produce that rumble whenever they want.

Pulsing or Thumping

If you sometimes feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat in your ears, you’re probably right. Some of the body’s biggest veins run extremely close to your ears, and if you have an elevated heart rate, whether from a tough workout or an important job interview, your ears will pick up the sound of your pulse. Pulsatile tinnitus is the term for this, and unlike other forms of tinnitus, it’s one that not only you hear, if you go to a hearing expert, he or she will be able to hear it as well. If you’re dealing with pulsatile tinnitus but you haven’t worked out recently, you need to see a specialist because that’s not common. Like other forms of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom not a disease; if it persists, it could suggest a health concern. But if you just had a hard workout, you should not hear it when your heart rate returns to normal.

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