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

Ever hear buzzing, thumping, or crackling noises that seem to come out of nowhere? Possibly, if you have hearing aids, they might need a fitting or require adjustment. But it might also be possible that, if you don’t use hearing aids, the sounds could be coming from inside your ears. But don’t panic. Our ears are a lot more complex than most of us may think. Here are some of the more common noises you may hear in your ears, and what they may indicate is going on. Though the majority are harmless (and not long lasting), if any of these sounds are persistent, painful, or otherwise interfering with your quality of life, it’s a smart strategy to talk to a hearing expert.

Crackling or Popping

You could hear a crackling or popping when the pressure in your ear changes, possibly from an altitude change or from swimming underwater or even from yawning. These sounds are caused by a small part of your ear called the eustachian tube. When the mucus-lined passageway opens allowing fluid and air to flow, 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 actually get gummed up. In serious cases, where antibiotics or decongestants don’t help, a blockage can call for surgical intervention. You probably should see a specialist if you feel pressure or persistent pain.

Could The Ringing or Buzzing be Tinnitus?

It might not be your ears at all if you have 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. It seems logical that excessive wax could make it tough to hear, and cause itchiness or even infections, but how can it make a sound? The ringing or buzzing is caused when the wax is pushing against the eardrum and suppressing its movement. But not to worry, the extra wax can be removed professionally. (Don’t try to do this by yourself!) Intense, persistent buzzing or ringing is known as tinnitus. There are a few types of tinnitus including when it’s caused by earwax. Tinnitus isn’t itself a disease or disorder; it’s a symptom that suggests something else is happening with your health. Besides the buildup of wax, tinnitus can also be linked to depression and anxiety. Diagnosing and treating the underlying health issue can help reduce tinnitus; talk to a hearing specialist to learn more.


This sound is one we cause ourself and is much less common. Do you know that rumble you can hear sometimes when you have a really big yawn? There are little muscles in the ear that contract in order to minimize 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 sounds that we hear as rumbling. We’re not suggesting 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 damaging. (But talking and chewing not to mention yawning are not optional, it’s lucky we have these little muscles.) It’s very unusual, but some people can control one of these muscles, they’re called tensor tympani, and they can create that rumble whenever they want.

Thumping or Pulsing

Your probably not far from the truth if you at times think you hear a heartbeat in your ears. Some of the body’s biggest veins run very close to your ears, and if you have an elevated heart rate, whether it’s from a hard workout or an important job interview, your ears will pick up the sound of your pulse. Pulsatile tinnitus is the term for this, and when you consult a hearing expert, unlike other types of tinnitus, they will be capable of hearing it as well. While it’s totally normal to experience pulsatile tinnitus when your heart’s racing, if it’s something you’re living with on a regular basis, it’s a practical decision to see your physician. Like other forms of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease; there are likely health concerns if it persists. 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.

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.

Main Line Audiology Consultants, PC