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

Do you ever hear noises that seem to come from nowhere, such as buzzing, thumping, or crackling? It’s possible, if you have hearing aids, they might need a fitting or need adjustment. But if you don’t wear hearing aids the noises are originating from inside your ear. But don’t panic. Even though we mostly think of our ears with respect to what we see on the outside, there’s a great deal more than what you see. Here are some of the more common sounds you might hear inside your ears, and what they could indicate is going on. Although most are harmless (and temporary), if any are lasting, irritating, or otherwise impeding your quality of life, it’s a smart strategy to talk to a hearing professional.

Crackling or Popping

You might hear a crackling or popping if the pressure in your ear changes, perhaps from an altitude change or from going underwater or even from a yawn. These sounds are caused by a small part of your ear called the eustachian tube. The crackling sound takes place when these mucus-lined passageways open up, allowing air and fluid to circulate and relieving the pressure in your ears. It’s an automatic process, but in some situations, like when you have inflammation from allergies, a cold, or an ear infection, the passageway can literally get gummed up. In extreme cases, where decongestant sprays or antibiotics don’t provide relief, a blockage can require surgical treatment. If you’re experiencing chronic ear pain or pressure, you should probably consult a professional.

Ringing or Buzzing is it Tinnitus?

It may 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 type of sound, it could be due to too much earwax. It makes sense that too much wax may make it difficult to hear, and cause itchiness or possibly infections, but how can it make a sound? The ringing or buzzing is produced when the wax is pressing on the eardrum and inhibiting its movement. Thankfully, it’s easily solved: You can have the extra wax professionally removed. (This is not a DIY activity!) Tinnitus is the term for prolonged ringing or buzzing. There are a number of kinds of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disorder or disease; it’s a symptom that suggests something else is going on with your health. While it may be as simple as the buildup of wax, tinnitus is also associated with conditions such as depression and anxiety. Tinnitus can be alleviated by dealing with the underlying health problem; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.


This one’s significantly less prevalent, and if you can hear it, you’re the one making the noises to occur! Have you ever observed how sometimes, if you have a really big yawn, you hear a low rumbling? There are little muscles in the ear that contract in order to minimize the internal volume of certain natural actions such as your own voice or yawning or chewing, It’s the tightening of these muscles in response to these natural sounds that we hear as rumbling. We’re not claiming you chew too loudly, it’s just that those sounds are so near to your ears that without these muscles, the volume level would be harmful. (And since you can’t stop chewing or speaking, we’ll stay with the muscles, thanks!) It’s very unusual, but some people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can produce that rumble whenever they want.

Thumping or Pulsing

Your probably not far of the mark if you sometimes think you hear a heartbeat in your ears. Some of the body’s largest veins are extremely close to your ears, and if your heart rate’s high, whether from a tough workout or an important job interview, the sound of your pulse will be picked up by your ears. This is known as pulsatile tinnitus, and when you go to see a hearing expert, unlike other kinds of tinnitus, they will be able to hear it also. While it’s totally normal to experience pulsatile tinnitus when your heart’s racing, if it’s something you’re living with on a daily basis, it’s a wise move to see your physician. Like other sorts of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease; there are most likely health problems if it continues. But if you just had a hard workout, you should not hear it when your heart rate goes back to normal.

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.
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