What Causes Crackling in Ear?

Woman pressing her ears due to hearing crackling in ears.

Most people have experienced strange sounds within their ears. Whether its ringing or buzzing after a loud concert or a popping sound when on an airplane, there are noises that come from inside the ear. Crackling in ear is another common sound, but what causes this noise and how can it be treated?

I Have Crackling in My Ear Like Rice Krispies

When you have a crackling sound in ear issue, it can be distracting. Many patients describe the sound as similar to the popping noise you hear when you are eating Rice Krispies® cereal. When the sound of crackling in ear is constant, it can disturb sleep and be maddening when it refuses to stop.

If you have are experiencing a crackling sound in your ear, it should not be ignored. When this sound persists, it can be a sign of a possible infection or other ear conditions. The accompanying symptoms can help identify what is causing the sound and the possible treatment solutions.

Too Much Earwax

The most common cause of noises like crackling in your ear is earwax buildup. Earwax is used to lubricate the ear canal components and prevent infection. When too much earwax is produced or it gets pushed back into the ear canal, it can plug the ear and create strange sounds.

If earwax is causing crackling in ear, you may feel like your ear is plugged or muffled. If there is too much buildup, you may have an earache, itching and slight hearing loss.

Earwax can be removed with over-the-counter wax buildup treatments. Never try to remove wax by inserting a cotton swab or other item into the ear – you could damage your eardrum. Try the OTC treatments – if this does not clear the earwax, see your doctor.

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the jaw joint, which is located near the ear on each side of jaw. TMJ disorders include multiple issues that can affect the jaw joint, including arthritis, tendonitis, misaligned teeth and other problems. One of the symptoms of TMJ disorders is noise.

If you hear a crackling sound in ear when moving your jaw up, down or side-to-side, it may be a sign of a TMJ disorder. Popping, crackling, grinding or other noises when moving the jaw may be coming from the jaw joint, not inside the ear. Other symptoms of TMJ disorders include:

  • Jaw or facial pain
  • Locking sensation when opening or closing jaw
  • Earaches
  • Headaches

When you have these symptoms along with crackling sound in ear when moving jaw, you may have a TMJ disorder. You should visit your doctor or dentist to explore the possible causes and treatment options to relieve your discomfort and crackling in ear.

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Issues Within the Eustachian Tube

The small tube that connects your ear to the nose and throat is called the eustachian tube.
They are vital for maintaining the correct pressure within the ears and draining fluid out of the middle ear. The eustachian tubes generally remain closed, but if there are issues, they can open and cause noise.

Dysfunction in the eustachian tube can disrupt the opening and closing that normally occurs. When you yawn, chew or swallow, the tube opens and closes again. When an infection, inflammation or other irritations interfere with the eustachian tube function, you may hear popping or crackling sound in ear.

Treatment for eustachian tube issues depends on what is causing the irritation. Sinusitis, allergies, tonsilitis, nasal polyps and other conditions may cause eustachian tube dysfunction. Diagnosis of the cause can determine the best treatment to get relief.

Middle Ear Infection

Acute otitis media, or a middle ear infection, is a common condition, especially in children. When the eustachian tubes are blocked or not functioning correctly, fluid can become trapped in the tube and may become infected. This can cause crackling in ear; other symptoms include:

  • Ear pain
  • Fluid draining out of the ear
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muffled hearing

Have you ever said, “I hear crackling in my ear like Rice Krispies”? It may be due to an ear infection. Acute otitis media will often go away on its own, but if symptoms last for more than a day, you should see a doctor. Antibiotics or other medications may be recommended to clear up the infection.
Concerned man touching his ear .

When To See a Doctor for Crackling in Ear

Many causes of crackling sounds in the ear are not dangerous and can disappear on their own. However, if the sound persists and interferes with sleeping or concentrating, you may want to seek medical attention. You should also see a doctor if there is blood, pus, fever or severe ear pain.

If you have accompanying symptoms with crackling in ear, talk to your doctor to receive a diagnosis on what is causing your ear problems.