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Hearing Aids by Tricia Leagjeld - Redmond, OR

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

Do you ever hear thumping, buzzing, or crackling sounds that appear to come from nowhere? Perhaps, if you use hearing aids, they need a fitting or need adjustment. But if you don’t have hearing aids the noises are originating from inside your ear. But don’t stress. Even though we usually think of our ears in terms of what we see on the outside, there’s a lot more than what you see. Here are some of the more common noises you may hear in your ears, and what they may indicate is happening. Though most are harmless (and temporary), if any of these sounds are persistent, painful, or otherwise interfering with your quality of life, it’s a good idea to talk to a hearing professional.

Popping or Crackling

When the pressure in your ears changes, whether it’s from altitude, going underwater or simply yawning, you might hear crackling or popping noises. These noises are caused by a small part of your ear called the eustachian tube. The crackling sound happens when these mucus-lined passageways open up, letting fluid and air to circulate and equalizing the pressure in your ears. Sometimes this automatic process is interrupted by inflammation triggered by an ear infection or a cold or allergies which gum up the ears. sometimes surgery is needed in extreme situations when the blockage isn’t helped by decongestants or antibiotics. You probably should consult a hearing professional if you feel pressure or chronic pain.

Ringing or Buzzing is it Tinnitus?

It might not be your ears at all if you have hearing aids, as mentioned before. If you aren’t using hearing aids, earwax may be your problem. It makes sense that excessive wax may make it tough to hear, and cause itchiness or possibly infections, but how can it make a sound? The buzzing or ringing is produced when the wax is pushing against the eardrum and suppressing its motion. But not to worry, the extra wax can be removed professionally. (This is not a DIY job!) Intense, persistent buzzing or ringing is called tinnitus. Even noise from too much earwax counts as a form of tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disease or disorder; it’s a symptom that signifies something else is going on with your health. While it might be as straightforward as the buildup of wax, tinnitus is also related to afflictions like depression and anxiety. Tinnitus can be eased by treating the underlying 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 actually the one causing the sound to occur! Have you ever noticed how occasionally, if you have a really big yawn, you hear a low rumble? It’s the sound of little muscles inside your ears which contract in order to provide damage control for sounds you make: They reduce the volume of chewing, yawning, even your own voice! We’re not claiming you chew too loudly, it’s just that those noises are so near to your ears that without these muscles, the noise level would be harmful. (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 certain people, though it’s quite rare, they’re called tensor tympani, and they’re able to produce that rumble at will.

Thumping or Pulsing

If you occasionally feel like you’re hearing your heartbeat in your ears, you’re probably right. The ears have some of the bodies biggest veins running very close them, and if your heart rate’s high, whether from a tough workout or a big job interview, the sound of your pulse will be detected by your ears. Pulsatile tinnitus is the term for this, and unlike other types of tinnitus, it’s one that not just you hear, if you go to see a hearing specialist, they will be able to hear it too. While it’s totally 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 kinds of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus isn’t a disease, it’s a symptom; there are most likely health problems if it continues. Because your heart rate should return to normal and you should stop hearing it after your workout when your heart rate goes back to normal.

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