Understanding the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options for a Crackling in Ear

We all hear things with our ears, but sometimes we also hear things in our ears. Some of the sounds that we hear in our ears can include buzzing, hissing, ringing, or even popping sounds. We have previously addressed ringing in our ears, also known as tinnitus, so here we will discuss the causes and solutions to popping, or crackling noise in ear.

Why does my ear crackle? Causes of Crackling Sound in Ear

It’s common to experience a popping sensation in your ears when you go up or down in elevation, however, if you experience popping or crackling in an ear on a regular basis you should seek advice from your doctor. If you’ve ever asked yourself, ‘why do I hear crackling in my ears?’ There are a number of possible causes of crackling sound in ear so we will address some of the most common below. 

  • Ear wax build-up - Earwax typically moves out of your ear naturally. However, it can sometimes get stuck in your ear canal and cause a blockage. This can happen if you push the earwax deeper into your ear by probing with an object like a cotton swab.
  • Acute otitis media is an infection in your middle ear. It’s more common in children than in adults. People with acute otitis media may experience ear crackling due to narrowed or blocked eustachian tubes. 
  • Eustachian tube dysfunction - Eustachian tube dysfunction happens when your eustachian tubes don’t open or close properly. This can lead to a crackling or popping sound in your ear. This can be caused by a number of factors that range from allergies to tumors so if you have a persistent issue you should see a doctor.
  • Age-related hearing loss (presbycusis) is the loss of hearing that gradually occurs in most of us as we grow older. It is one of the most common conditions affecting older and elderly adults. Approximately one in three people in the United States between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss, and nearly half of those older than 75 have difficulty hearing. Age-related hearing loss can also include hearing crackling or popping noises in your ears more frequently.
  • Exposure to loud noise - Prolonged exposure to loud sounds is the most common cause of tinnitus. Up to 90% of people with tinnitus have some level of noise-induced hearing loss. The noise causes permanent damage to the sound-sensitive cells of the cochlea, a spiral-shaped organ in the inner ear. Anyone who works in noisy environments or engages in activities that require hearing protection is potentially at risk of getting tinnitus. A single exposure to a sudden extremely loud noise can also cause tinnitus.
  • Fluid in your middle ears. See our article on "How to drain fluid from middle ear at home" for more information. 
  • If you have a TMJ disorder, you may hear or feel clicking or popping very close to your ear, particularly when you open your mouth or chew.

Symptoms of Crackling Sound in Ear

Crackling sounds in your ears are said to sound like rice crispy cereal popping inside of your ear. We’ve all probably popped our ears while driving up or down a mountain in a car, but when the crackling sound is persistent you will want to seek the advice of a health professional to determine the cause of this symptom usual. Usually, the crackling and popping sound in your ear is not the only symptom, typically it’s also accompanied by ringing or buzzing sounds, difficulty hearing in general, dizziness, and sometimes pain or discomfort in your ear.

Treatment options: How to get rid of crackling sound in ear

Since there are a number of causes of crackling sound in your ears there are also multiple ways how to stop crackling in ears. First and foremost, you need to identify the cause before moving on to treatment.

  • Antibiotics to treat an ear infection.
  • If earwax is causing a blockage then earwax removal by a specialist.
  • If earwax blockages are recurring, use an at-home otoscope to identify and remove ear wax before it clogs the auditory canal and causes a problem.
  • Placement of ear tubes in your eardrums to help equalize pressure in your middle ear and to help with the drainage of fluid.
  • Balloon dilation of the eustachian tube, which uses a small balloon catheter to help open the eustachian tubes.
  • Prescription medications like tricyclic antidepressants or muscle relaxants for relief of pain associated with TMJ disorders.
  • Surgery for TMJ when more conservative methods aren’t working to relieve symptoms.
  • Ear protection, especially if you work in a noisy environment or frequent loud concerts.

If you have a crackling noise in ear, take action!

Crackling in ear can be caused by several different conditions, such as eustachian tube dysfunction, acute otitis media, or the buildup of earwax. If the crackling in your ears isn’t too severe, you can try various home remedies to help get rid of the noise. A digital at-home otoscope can help you examine your ear canal and see if there is in fact a build up of ear wax, discharge, or infection. However, if self-care measures don’t work, or you have severe or prolonged symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor.


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