It is not uncommon to occasionally hear a strange sound in the ears, such as popping, ringing, hissing, buzzing, or crackling.
Various conditions can cause crackling in the ear, and it is not usually a sign of anything harmful. However, if it frequently occurs, it can affect a person’s quality of life and may indicate an underlying issue.
Continue reading to learn more about the causes and treatments for crackling in the ears.
Many people experience crackling in their ears occasionally. For example, pressure from altitude changes can lead to crackling or other uncomfortable effects in the ears.
Some other causes of crackling in the ears include:
The ear canal secretes wax to protect the structures of the ear canal from germs and other foreign particles. The ears are self-cleaning. Chewing and jaw motion help transport earwax and dead skin cells from the eardrum to the ear opening, where it dries and falls out.
According to the Hearing Loss Association, items placed in the ears — such as earplugs, hearing aids, and earbuds — may increase the buildup of earwax and prevent the natural flow of wax out of the ear canal.
When earwax accumulates, it may cover the eardrum and lead to a crackling sound.
Some additional symptoms of impacted earwax include:
Eustachian tube dysfunction
The eustachian tube is a narrow passageway that connects the middle ear to the throat or back of the nose or nasopharynx. There is one tube in each ear.
These tubes prevent air pressure and fluid from building up in the ear. Maintaining correct ear pressure prevents the eardrum from bulging inward or outward incorrectly. The pressure behind the eardrum should be the same as the pressure outside the eardrum.
Normally, the eustachian tubes remain closed and only open up when a person swallows or yawns. Blocked tubes and those that do not open or close correctly can lead to eustachian tube dysfunction.
Eustachian tube dysfunction is fairly common. It occurs in about 4% of adults worldwide and is even more common in children and people with underlying craniofacial conditions.
In addition to crackling in the ears, some other symptoms may include:
- itchiness or tickling inside the ear
- pain in and around the ear
- a feeling of fullness in the ear
- muffled hearing
These tubes may become blocked due to: