Crackling in the ear is an uncomfortable sensation or ringing you might hear in your ear. It may indicate various ear conditions like infections, blockage, or others. Although it’s not usually harmful, constant crackling in the ear can tell a complex underlying condition.
Wondering what’s causing crackling in my ear and how to deal with it. Read ahead to discover everything you need to know about crackling in the ear.
What Are The Causes of Ear Crackling?
You may hear a crackling noise in your ear due to various conditions, such as yawning or changing altitudes. Besides this, ear wax, congestion, tinnitus, and blocked eustachian tubes can cause ear crackling. Let’s review them one by one.
1. Dysfunctioning of Eustachian Tube:
The Eustachian tube maintains the pressure inside the middle ear, evacuates the middle ear’s fluid, and prevents infection. Dysfunctioning of the eustachian tube, connecting the middle ear with the nose and upper throat, may result in a crackling noise inside the ear1 (2022, May 4). Blocked Eustachian Tube. uofmhealth.org. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uf9680. It may be due to infections, tonsils, allergies, pollution in the air, split palate, tumors, and polyps in the nasal cavity.
Due to all the above reasons, the Eustachian tube gets infected and may have a temporary or permanent obstruction. Crackling in the ear after sinus rinse may be due to fluid build-up in the tube. It may happen when you wash nostrils with saline solution.
2. Acute Otitis Media:
A middle ear infection is most common in children. It occurs due to unusual blockage and accumulation of fluid in the eustachian tube. The fluid, while remaining inside the ear, causes infection. Besides this, other causes of the disorder include pain and pressure in the ear, severe headaches, problems in hearing, fever, etc.
3. Expansion of Ear wax:
Earwax, secreted into the ear, protects the internal structures of the ear canal from germs and infections. Using earbuds or hearing aids instruments such as earbuds and hearing instruments can push the wax inside the ear canal2 Hearing Loss Association (n.d.). 9 Facts about Earwax. Hearingloss.org. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://www.hearingloss.org/wp-content/uploads/HLM_JulAug2017_MHeinrich.pdf?pdf=2017-hlm-ja-mheinrich. These items inhibit the natural flow of earwax out of the ear.
4. Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disruption:
It is a group of disorders that lead to dysfunctional pain in the joints of the jaws and the muscles and is also a primary cause of crackling in the ear. Among the common 30 TMDs, joint disorders, chewing muscles disorders, and headaches are the main types. Generally, this disorder is not permanent and heals on its own. But, in some cases, it is long-lasting.
Signs and Symptoms
Whatever the condition causing crackling in your ear, you may experience the following symptoms:
- A feeling of congestion in the ear
- Hearing loss or difficulty in hearing
- Partial hearing loss
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Ear discharge, including pus or blood.
- Plugged ears
- Ear discomfort or pain
- Itching and inflammation
When to Consult a Doctor?
You should see a doctor if the crackling worsens and you experience any of the following conditions:
- Severe and constant crackling in the ear, affecting your quality of life.
- Persistent fever or pain indicating an ear infection.
- Fluid discharge with blood and pus in the ear canal
- Impaired hearing
How Can You Diagnose it?
Diagnosis usually includes a physical examination of your ear, nose, and throat. Your doctor may also ask about your medical history to know about the probable cause.
However, there might be some specific tests to diagnose it.
- Imaging tests like MRI and CT scan
- A hearing exam
- Checking the eardrum’s movement to detect middle ear problems.
What Treatment Options are Available?
Treating ear crackling depends on the underlying condition. Some standard treatment options are:
Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medicines
Various OTC medicines are available to treat it, such as:
- OTC ear drops can help soften the wax and reduce irritation.
- NSAIDs to relieve pain and inflammation.
- OTC decongestants can help unclog your plugged ears and reduce congestion.
- Antihistamines to relieve itching, symptoms of cold, and allergies.
Use earwax softening kits or consult a specialist to remove your earwax. Carefully using irrigation tools can help flush the liquefied wax easily.
If you experience symptoms of an ear infection lasting longer than 2-3 days, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic like Amoxicillin to treat the ear infection.
Opening of Eustachian tube
A small balloon catheter is usually inserted to help open or dilate the eustachian tubes. Also, nasal irrigation with salt water can be helpful in removing excess mucus in the nose and sinuses.
The doctor may prescribe Tricyclic Antidepressants and Muscle Relaxants if ear crackling is associated with TMJ disorder.
Surgery is the last option if conventional methods fail to resolve crackling in the ear due to TMJ disorder. However, it’s not always successful.
Crackling in the ear, no pain? Sometimes, the crackling sound in the ear is not much severe. In this case, you can try these simple home remedies for relief. However, a medical visit is always recommended to rule out the cause.
- Try to unclog your ears simply by movement like chewing and swallowing.
- Use mineral oil or hydrogen peroxide to soften the earwax.
- Flush your nose with salt water to remove excess mucus from the sinuses.
- Use ice packs or massage the area to relieve irritation.
- Try TMJ exercises to relieve joint stiffness and pain.
How to Prevent Crackling in Ear?
Here are a few simple tips to prevent popping in the ear:
- Practice general hygiene like washing hands and staying isolated from sick to respiratory infections.
- Avoid allergens, tobacco smoke, and other environmental pollutants that can disturb the eustachian tube’s function.
- Avoid cleaning your ears with cotton swabs; they can push ear wax into the ear canal.
- Never push any hard object into your ear canal.
- Noise and loud voices can cause ear crackling and damage. Avoid excessive noise exposure and use hearing protection in noisy environments.
You might have experienced crackling in the ear in loud environments or climbing at high altitudes. It is primarily a self-limiting condition that resolves independently after some time. However, popping and crackling in the ear due to some serious underlying cause can be alarming and require you to visit the doctor.
- 1(2022, May 4). Blocked Eustachian Tube. uofmhealth.org. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uf9680
- 2Hearing Loss Association (n.d.). 9 Facts about Earwax. Hearingloss.org. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://www.hearingloss.org/wp-content/uploads/HLM_JulAug2017_MHeinrich.pdf?pdf=2017-hlm-ja-mheinrich