What Causes Crackling Sound In Ear & Ways To Get Rid Of It

The ear abnormality or diseases causes abnormal sound in ear. One of the common abnormality experienced by a lot of people is a Crackling sound in ear. The abnormal sounds are described as ringing, hissing, popping, whistling and crackling. In most cases any and all sound felt in ear are expressed as tennitus.1 This is often a sign of an abnormality that occurs within the delicate structures of the ear. Crackling sounds in the ear can be really annoying and even cause distress. It can lead to lack of sleep, anxiety, poor work or school performance, decreased mood, etc. The crackling sound is frequently diagnosed as Tinnitus. Tinnitus is constant hearing of ringing and buzzing.

Crackling sound is heard when tissue or wax rubs against ear drum, air passes through obstructed passage as in inflamed eustachian tube, friction during movement of bone in temporomandibular joint or irritated sensory nerve. Tinnitus and crackling sound is a perception of sound in absence of actual sound being heard.2 Most tinnitus or crackling sound heard by ear are benign and may disappear over few days with or without treatment. In few cases further test needs to be done to evaluate the cause of tinnitus before any treatment is recommended. The treatment of crackling sound or tinnitus depend on right diagnosis and understanding of cause of tinnitus.

What Causes Crackling Sound In Ear?

What Causes Crackling or Clicking Sound In Ear?

  1. Ear wax
  2. Eustachian tube dysfunction
  3. TMJ or Temporomandibular joint syndrome disorder
  4. Loss of sensory hair cells
  5. Foreign body in the ear
  6. Ear Infections
  7. Noise Trauma
  8. Drugs or Medications

Ear Wax:

Ear wax is considered as the leading cause of crackling sound in ear. Dry ear wax causes crackling sound when wax covers eardrum. The sound wave strikes the eardrum and that results in transmission of sound signals through nerves. Thus, eardrum is a vital component in the conduction of sound. The wax with consistency of firm to hard and lies in close approximation with ear drum, obstruct the transmission of sound waves to the ear drum. The harsh sound waves are heard like a crackling sound when such sound waves strikes the dry ear wax that is in contact with ear drum.

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction3.

Eustachian tube has two opening one opens behind the nasopharynx and opposite end opens in middle year. Eustachian tube exchanges air between middle ear and nose that is open to atmosphere. The air flows in and out of middle ear depending on air pressure in external and middle ear. The balance of air pressure between middle and externa ear is necessary to prevent damage to eardrum. Occasionally Eustachian tube gets blocked when individual is suffering with upper respiratory tract infection. Infection from throat spreads into nasopharynx and Eustachian tube. The infected nasopharynx mucosa gets inflamed and swollen. Such condition blocks the Eustachian tube and nasal opening of Eustachian tube. The blocked Eustachian tube causes tinnitus and crackling sound.2 The Eustachian tube block is also observed during rapid altitude changes, while in flight above the ground. Such altitude change causes blockade of Eustachian tube and that result in tinnitus.

TMJ or Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome Disorder:

Temporomandibular joint is a link between temporal and mandibular bone. TMJ or Temporomandibular joint syndrome is a disorder that is characterized by excruciating pain or tenderness in the jaw. Our jaw muscles are used every day to chew food, to speak and to breathe. During these action the mandible constantly moves within temporomandibular joint. The injury and infection of joint causes severe pain in the temporomandibular joint. Pain also spreads in surrounding muscle that assist in jaw movement. Temporomandibular jaw inflammation causes swelling within the joint and that frequently causes crackling sound and tinnitus in ear.4

Middle Ear Myoclonus

The abnormal movement of tympanic membrane or ear drum causes crackling or clicking sound. Similarly, abnormal function of stapedius muscle also causes abnormal sound in ear that is felt like clicking or crackling sound. The vibration of tympanic membrane and stapedius causes abnormal sound.5

Loss of Sensory Hair Cells:

The main structures of inner ear are cochlea and 3 semicircular canal. Cochlea contains thousands of specialized sensory hair cells. Cochlea helps to transmit signals of sound waves to brain so we can hear. Abnormality in Sensory hair cells causes deafness and tinnitus.6 Similarly, loss of sensory hair cells can create crackling sounds or tinnitus in ear.

Foreign Body In The Ear:

Any foreign object entering the middle ear has the potential to rub against the eardrum like dry wax and cause a crackling sound in the ear. It may even be caused by an insect that has been trapped accidentally in the ear canal.

Ear Infections:

Some bacterial and viral infections can infect the middle and inner ear. Middle ear infection causes inflammation of Eustachian tube that frequently blocks eustachian tube. Inner ear infection causes abnormal function of cochlea. The cochlear infection causes tinnitus that sounds like clicking or crackling sound.

Noise Trauma:

Crackling sounds in ear is caused by constant exposure to loud noises or even a sudden loud noise that can damage the eardrum and its internal structures, resulting in hearing loss and crackling sounds in the ear.

Drugs or Medications:

There are a lot of OTC medicines and prescription drugs that can damage the auditory nerve. These drugs are often referred to as being ototoxic. If used inappropriately, a person may experience sudden loss of hearing, tinnitus, or uncomfortable sounds like crackling, popping or crunching in the ear. Following medications causes tinnitus or crackling sound when taken for more than 7 days.

Antibiotics- Erythromycin, vancomycin and neomycin

Diuretics (water pills)- Bumex and Lasix

Analgesics- Aspirin

Anti-malaria medications- Quinine

Ways To Get Rid of Crackling or Clicking Sound In Ear

  1. Removal of Earwax

    1. Hydrogen Peroxide
    2. Vinegar and Wine
    3. Glycerin
    4. Olive Oil
    5. Tea Tree Oil
    6. Fish Oil
    7. Ear Drops and
    8. Warm Water.
  2. Treat Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

  3. Treat Ear Infections

  4. Treat TMJ

  5. Alternative Treatment To Get Rid Of Crackling Sound In The Ear

  1. Valsalva maneuver
  2. Steam
  3. Tinnitus retraining therapy or TRT
  4. Building healthy lifestyle changes

Removal of Earwax:

Though our bodies will eliminate the ear wax themselves when they are too thick, however; sometimes the natural method of the body cannot remove the earwax. This is the condition when too much of hard earwax creates crackling sounds in the ear. Below are some ways to get rid of earwax which causes crackling sound in ears:

  1. Hydrogen Peroxide:

    Mix equal portions of hydrogen peroxide with water and put few drops into your ear. Shake your head well, so that the hydrogen peroxide flows deeper into the ear canal.

  2. Vinegar and Wine:

    Wine is able to kill 85% of aerobic bacteria, which can be cleaned and disinfected perfectly. White vinegar, being strong with its antibiotic and antibacterial properties, is useful in treating bacterial infections. Thus, combining these two components you can treat ear infections, dissolve ear wax and help get rid of crackling sound in ears. You can mix the two components in a bowl and then dip a soft cloth into the mixture and drop a few drops of it into both your ears. Taking this treatment twice in a day can prevent crackling sounds in ear.

  3. Glycerine:

    Glycerin is a natural product that is effective in softening the ear wax. You can buy glycerine ear drops at the chemist store and use four drops of it in your ear every 2 to 3 times a day. Glycerine helps to soften earwax that slowly falls out. Crackling sounds disappears as concentration of wax decreases in external ear.

  4. Olive Oil:

    Warm Olive oil helps to soften wax. The oil is tolerated when drops are inserted in external ear. Once the olive oil is dropped on the external ear keep the head steady for 10 to 15 minutes so oil can mix with wax. Repeat the same in opposite ear. Then take a clean cloth and cover the ear that was lubricated with oil. Lie on side that was oiled with clean cloth underneath. Let wax fall outside ear with the gravity.

  5. Tea Tree Oil:

    Tea tree oil has excellent healing properties and can be useful in getting rid of ear wax causing crackling sound in ears. Using a syringe, flow a few drops of the tea tree oil in each ear and let it sit for some time. The tea tree oil will wash away the wax that has been softened. Finally, using a clean gauze, dry your ears and clean the ear wax thoroughly.

  6. Fish Oil:

    Fish oil has also helps to remove wax from external ear. The wax is often breaks down when fish oil is mixed with wax.

  7. Ear Drops:

    Ear drops are also effective in getting rid of ear wax. However, you should only use the ear drops that are prescribed by your doctor.

  8. Warm Water:

    Warm water can also be beneficial in treating ear wax and crackling sound in the ear caused by it. Pour the warm water over back of your hand and make sure the temperature is tolerable to skin. Tilt your head and gently pull the ear lobe down and out, so as to open the ear canal. Now, using the syringe, pump the warm water into the inner ear with very slight pressure. Wait for 10 minutes and then turn your head following the other direction, until the water flows out. Repeat this several times to get best results.

Treatment of Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

This condition can be treated with OTC or prescribed medications. The inflammation is treated with NSAIDs like motrin, naproxen and celebrex. Eustachian tube blockade within nasopharynx is treated with nasal douching, decongestants, antihistamines and simethicone. Similarly, bacterial infection is treated with antibiotics and resistant viral infection is treated with antiviral medications. Once the inflammation is reduced then the clicking or crackling sound also decreases that is often felt within oropharyngeal area. In resistant cases home remedies may reduce the frequency or eliminate the crackling sound. Home remedies may help to get rid of Eustachian tube dysfunction includes chewing gum, yawning, swallowing, using a saline nasal spray to reduce edema of opening of nasolacrimal tube and breathing exercise that involves breathing deep inspiration and expiration. Try Valsalva maneuver and steam therapy.

Valsalva Maneuver:

This is accomplished by force breath out (expiration) while keeping the mouth closed and nose pinched to close air passage of nostrils. Expiration against the resistance, sometime opens up the blocked Eustachian tube. The procedure involves maintaining relax sitting position and then close both nostril with one hand same time close mouth. Then breath out against the close air passage of mouth and nose. The air will try to pass through the nasolacrimal duct. You may hear a slight popping sound, which indicates that the Eustachian tubes are open again.

Steam:

Steam is a common remedy to get rid of sinus congestion and congested nasolacrimal duct. It also helps to relieve clogged ears and get rid of crackling sound in ear.

Treatment of Ear Infections:

Treatment may vary, depending on the type of ear infection. Bacterial infection is treated with antibiotics, viral infection is treated with anti-viral infection and fungal infection is treated with anti-fungal medications. organism involved in the ear infections. It is always good to talk to your doctor and get professional treatment for the condition.

Treatment of TMJ:

In order to get rid of crackling sound in ears caused due to TMJ, you can take pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). Try muscle relaxant with NSAIDs. If pain continues then try Tri-cycling antidepressants that may relieve neuropathic pain. In addition, try physical therapy to strengthen oral muscle, oral splints or mouth guards. Surgical procedures may also be essential in some cases of TMJ. Acupuncture and relaxation techniques are some alternative treatment recommended for TMJ

Alternative Treatment To Get Rid Of Crackling Sound In The Ear:

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy or TRT

This is a therapy, where counselors teach you to accept crackling sound in ear as natural sound and not think of it as a disturbing sound. This requires regular practice with the help of your counselors to be more effective. When done properly and regularly, this therapy provides relief from the crackling sound in eat in most of the people.

Precautions to Prevent Crackling Or Clicking Sound-

Following precautions may help to prevent crackling or clicking sound in ear

  • Clean your ears at regular intervals to prevent buildup of the ear wax.
  • Avoid getting the affected ear wet,
  • Remove ear wax by periodic softening wax,
  • See your physician if you see ear discharge,
  • Do not put small object in your ear,
  • Do not try to remove wax with stick and object sold in market, you will push wax against the ear drum and cause ear drum injury
  • Earplugs should be clean and not dirty

When to see your Doctor-

Crackling or clicking sound can be temporary or may last for long time. The proper early treatment can eliminate inflammatory disease and infection. You must see your physician for following reason-

  • If you are suffering with fever.
  • Earache
  • Purulent discharge from ear
  • Pain in your jaw while eating
  • Pain over side of jaw and masseter muscle
  • Dizziness associated with crackling or clicking sound in ear
  • Unable to hear or sudden hearing loss.

References:

  1. Symtoms: Mayo Clinic

    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/tinnitus/symptoms-causes/syc-20350156

  2. Tinnitus: Characteristics, Causes, Mechanisms, and Treatments

    Byung In Han, MD,a Ho Won Lee, MD,b Tae You Kim, MD,c Jun Seong Lim, MD,d and Kyoung Sik Shin, MDe, J Clin Neurol. 2009 Mar; 5(1): 11–19.

  3. Interventions for adult Eustachian tube dysfunction: a systematic review.

    Health Technology Assessment, No. 18.46.

    Llewellyn A, Norman G, Harden M, et al., Southampton (UK): NIHR Journals Library; 2014 Jul.

  4. Management and Treatment of Temporomandibular Disorders: A Clinical Perspective

    Edward F. Wright, DDS, MSa, and Sarah L. North, PT, MPTb, J Man Manip Ther. 2009; 17(4): 247–254.

  5. Middle Ear Myoclonus: Two Informative Cases and a Systematic Discussion of Myogenic Tinnitus

    Aviva Ellenstein1,2*, Nadia Yusuf2, Mark Hallett2, Department of Neurology, George Washington University, Washington, DC, United States of America, 2Human Motor Control Section, NINDS, NIH, Bethesda, MD, United States of America

  6. Exploring Tinnitus-Induced Disablement by Persistent Frustration in Aging Individuals: A Grounded Theory Study

    Nicolas Dauman,1,* Soly I. Erlandsson,2 Dolorès Albarracin,1 and René Dauman3, Front Aging Neurosci. 2017; 9: 272.

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