Young man wearing glasses holding his ear out of pain or a crackling in his ear.

Why Do I Hear Crackling in my Ear?

Published: August 5, 2022

Hearing unwanted sounds is never fun—especially when the cause is unknown. Whether it be ringing, buzzing, or altogether muffled hearing, these impairments can be very frustrating and even interfere with everyday life.

Another possible unwanted sound is crackling. Think pouring milk into a bowl of Rice Krispies or crinkling tissue paper. If you experienced this and found yourself wondering why, look no further.

Let’s take a look at why crackling in the ear happens and what you can do about it.

Reasons For Crackling in the Ear

There are several main causes for crackling in the ears, ranging in severity. 

Earwax Buildup

Earwax is essential for keeping ears healthy. Given that the ears are self-cleaning, earwax is typically moved out of the ear naturally—in fact, commonly thought of cleaning methods like using Q-tips can actually do more harm than good.

Using Q-tips or other objects to clean the ears can lead to the earwax becoming impacted. In other cases, some people may experience more earwax production than others, which can cause the earwax to build up and cause a blockage. Regardless of the cause, excessive earwax buildup can cause issues in the ear—including crackling.

If the crackling is accompanied by partial hearing loss or a plugged feeling in the ears, this may indicate earwax buildup. You can try safe earwax removal techniques at home, but if these don’t work, it’s best to have your ears professionally cleaned to avoid further blockage.

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

Eustachian tubes connect the middle of the ears to the back of the throat. They are primarily responsible for draining fluid and balancing pressure in the ears. When these processes are disrupted, such as by a blockage in the tube, it can lead to pain, pressure, and crackling in the ears.

While eustachian tube dysfunction is most common in children, adults may also experience blockage due to illnesses (such as colds or sinus infections) or allergies. Taking cold or allergy medication can help alleviate the symptoms, and the blockage will typically clear up on its own.

However, if symptoms don’t appear tied to illness, allergies, or an environmental irritant, it’s important to have your ears checked, as eustachian tube dysfunction could potentially indicate a more serious health concern.

Ear Infection

Ear infections can often accompany eustachian tube dysfunction. When bacteria or viruses enter the middle ear, they can spread through built-up fluid in the eustachian tubes, leading to infection. Infection of the middle ear is known as acute otitis media.

In addition to crackling, ear infections can lead to a lot of pain. If you suspect you have an ear infection, it’s important to have your ears checked as soon as possible to treat the infection and manage the pain.

TMJ Disorders

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) attaches the jawbone to the skull, working as a hinge to open and close the jaw. The joint can experience various issues, classified as TMJ disorders, that can have different effects, such as crackling in the ears.

There are a variety of causes for TMJ disorders including injury, wearing of the joint cartilage, or arthritis. Most commonly, TMJ disorders include pain in the jaw or ear or stiffness in jaw motion—including the jaw locking up. If you’re experiencing these symptoms in addition to crackling in the ear, it’s likely due to a TMJ disorder.

There are a variey of ways to treat TMJ disorders. It may be recommended to eat softer food that is easier to chew, ice the area, attempt to reduce stress, or perform certain jaw exercises. In serious cases, surgery may be required.

Middle Ear Myoclonus

Middle ear myoclonus (MEM) is a rare type of tinnitus that can lead to ringing, buzzing, or crackling in the ear. This is caused by the spasming of two ear muscles: the tensor symphony and stapedius.

Ear muscle spasms may be an indication of a potentially serious health condition, including multiple sclerosis or ALS. Therefore, if you’re routinely experiencing crackling in the ears that doesn’t appear tied with the other causes listed above, it’s important to get your ears checked to ensure these underlying conditions aren’t responsible.

Take Care of Your Ears

If you’re experiencing odd sounds in your ears—including crackling—you shouldn’t ignore them. While many times ringing, buzzing, or crackling in the ears isn’t caused by a serious condition, it’s best to take the steps to uncover the root cause and get the treatment needed. 

Crackling in the ears may also be an indication of potential hearing loss. Identifying hearing loss early can help slow the loss of hearing and keep quality of life high by getting the necessary treatment, such as hearing aids.

Lexie hearing aids are a great option for getting high-quality treatment at an affordable price. Lexie hearing aids can be purchased online and are ready to go right out of the box—no need for a prescription or visit to the clinic. This added convenience doesn’t come with a higher price tag either, as Lexie hearing aids cost far less than the average traditional hearing aid.

Get your Lexie hearing aids online today, or contact a Lexie Expert to learn more.

Image of post writer Marcellé Swanepoel.

Written by Marcellé Swanepoel

B. Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology


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