Many factors and health conditions can be attributed to crackling in the ear. In most cases, crackling in ears is not a sign of a medical emergency or a serious problem. However, if it frequently occurs, it may affect one’s quality of life and could be a red flag for an underlying health issue.
In this blog, we’ll talk about what causes crackling in ears, how it can be treated, and when to see a doctor.
Common Causes of Crackling in the Ear
Temporomandibular Joint and Muscle Disorder (TMJ)
TMJ disorders are a group of conditions that affect the jaw and its surrounding muscles. This condition can trigger hearing-related symptoms including crackling sounds in the ear.
If you are experiencing crackling in the ear along with issues around your jaw area, it’s important to seek medical attention to determine the underlying cause.
Impacted earwax is one of the most common causes of crackling in the ears. When the earwax becomes too hard, it can cause an impaction which could block the ear canal. In some cases, impacted earwax can also lead to an ear infection.
Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD)
Another possible cause of crackling in the ears is eustachian tube dysfunction. When there are issues with the eustachian tube, it can trigger a buildup of pressure in the middle ear, which can lead to popping or crackling sounds.
Meniere’s disease is a condition of the inner ear that can exacerbate a range of symptoms, including hearing loss, vertigo (a spinning sensation), tinnitus, and a feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear.
Crackling sounds in the ear are not typically considered a prominent symptom of Meniere’s disease, but some individuals with this condition may experience these sounds.
Cold, Flu, Allergies
Cold, flu, and allergies are common causes of crackling in the ears. When you have a cold, the sinuses and nasal passages become congested and inflamed, which can affect the pressure in the middle ear, thus causing crackling sounds.
In most cases, crackling in ears caused by cold, flu, or allergies will resolve on their own as the underlying issues improve. In some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed to get rid of viruses or bacteria causing the cold or flu.
How long does ear crackling last?
If you are experiencing crackling in your ears due to a bout of cold or allergies, it should go away on its own once you take decongestants. However, for severe cases of ear crackling, further examination and treatment may be necessary.
When to see a doctor
Crackling in the ears may be generally harmless and fleeting, but a visit to a doctor may be necessary if the crackling sounds occur with some of the symptoms below:
- Loss of hearing
- Progressive and frequent crackling sounds
- Fever or pain (signs of an ear infection)
- Fluid draining from the ear
If you are experiencing crackling in your ears and the frequency is increasing, schedule an appointment with an audiologist, ear, nose, and throat physician (ENT), or healthcare provider.
During the appointment, you will be asked about your symptoms, medical history, and any medications you are currently taking. A physical examination of the ears will also be performed.
Depending on your medical history, current medications, and/or symptoms, additional tests may be ordered or you may be referred to a specialist.
Some of the tests to diagnose crackling in the ears include:
- Imaging tests
Once the underlying cause of crackling in ears has been determined, an appropriate treatment plan to address the symptoms and help prevent complications will be administered.
Treating Crackling in Ear
Treatment options for crackling in ears will depend on the underlying cause.
- Impacted earwax: If earwax buildup is the culprit behind the crackling sound, professional earwax removal may be recommended. This can be done in an audiologist’s clinic using special tools and techniques.
- Eustachian tube dysfunction: If the crackling sound is caused by eustachian tube dysfunction, prescription nasal sprays or over-the-counter decongestants may be prescribed to open up the eustachian tube and reduce inflammation.
- TMJ disorders: Self-care measures such as hot or cold compresses, jaw exercises, and over-the-counter pain relievers can help alleviate crackling in the ears caused by TMJ disorders.
- Meniere’s disease: If the crackling sound is attributed to Meniere’s disease, medications to control symptoms may be prescribed. Diuretics can help reduce fluid buildup in the body while corticosteroids help reduce inflammation.
Some treatment options can be provided by an audiologist, others may require a medical referral to an ENT. In some cases though, no treatment is necessary for crackling in the ears, and the symptoms may resolve on their own.
Audiologists in Abilene, TX
Abilene Audiology Co. offers comprehensive audiology services in Abilene, TX. Whether you need to get a hearing test, or a hearing aid recommendation, or have some auditory issues like tinnitus or crackling in your ears, we’ve got you covered.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our audiologists!