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Why are my ears crackling?

Last update on Dec, 27, 2022

Crackling sounds in ears

Our ears work hard to process sounds and help us hear. While a lot of sounds can be heard in our surroundings, we may also hear odd sounds come from inside of our ears. It’s normal to occasionally hear ringing, buzzing, or clicking sounds when nothing is around. You might also hear crackling sounds in your ears, which are often compared to the noise you hear when you pour milk into a bowl of crispy cereal.

Man talking to a HCP

What causes your ears to crackle? Learn more about crackling ears and what they mean.

What causes my ears to crackle?

You might hear your ears crackle when you swallow or yawn, especially after a cold. That’s because crackling ears are often a result of blocked eustachian tubes, which are located in your middle ears. Your eustachian tubes are located on each side of your face and connected to your nose and upper part of your throat. These tubes are mostly closed and only open when you chew, swallow, or yawn. [1] When the eustachian tubes are blocked or don’t function properly, fluids and pressure build up in your ears and cause popping and crackling sounds. This condition is called eustachian tube dysfunction, or ETD. [1]

How do the eustachian tubes get blocked?

Blocked eustachian tubes can be caused by multiple reasons. Some common causes include:

Changes in altitude

If you ever drive up to higher climates, fly in an airplane, or swim to the bottom of a deep pool, your ears may start feeling a little clogged. This is due to the pressure changes from altitude.

Illnesses and allergies

You may notice that your ears will crackle when you are sick with the cold or are dealing with allergy symptoms. The inflammation and excess mucus that come with colds and allergies can block the eustachian tubes, causing increased ear pressure. If your ears crackle after sneezing, it’s because your eustachian tubes have opened and released the pressure.

Ear infections

Ear infections occur when the eustachian tubes swell up, causing fluids to build up in the middle ear. [2] You may start experiencing symptoms when then these fluids get infected by bacteria or viruses. Children are more likely to experience ear infections because their eustachian tubes are much smaller. [2]

Can ear wax cause crackling ears?

If your eustachian tubes aren't blocked, there could be other reasons behind your crackling ears. Another possible cause of crackling ears is excessive ear wax. Ear wax is a useful substance that moisturizes your ears and protects them from debris, but too much of it can harden in your ears and block the ear canal. This can cause partial hearing loss and crackling or ringing noises in your ears. If you think you may have excessive ear wax, the best way to get your ears cleaned is to have a doctor do it for you. 

How do I fix crackling ears?

Thankfully, crackling ears are not typically something you should worry about. If your ears are crackling because of a cold or allergies, the sound should go away on its own once you feel better or take decongestants. However, severe cases of crackling ears may require further treatment solutions like surgery. Talk to your doctor or visit an audiologist if your crackling ears last more than a week. 

Man wearing hearing aids at restaurant

Concerned about your hearing?

If you decide to get your ears checked, make your way to your local Miracle-Ear hearing center to schedule an appointment. Our team of experts can take a look at your ears and see what's causing the problem.

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