Crackling noise in ear: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Last update on Aug, 29, 2023

Understanding ear crackling: causes and remedies

Have you ever experienced a crackling sound in your ear? Many people have and wonder what it means. While some worry it's a sign of a severe health issue, others may brush it off as nothing to be concerned about. 

In this article, we'll delve deeper into the topic of ear crackling, exploring its potential causes and which treatments may help you find relief from this often disrupting auditory experience.

What causes crackling in the ear?

Crackling in the ears can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Earwax buildup
  • Eustachian tube dysfunction
  • Acute otitis media
  • Ménière's disease 
  • TMJ disorders

You may experience a crackling in the ear when moving your jaw or swallowing. The sensation can happen at any time and may be accompanied by other symptoms depending on the underlying cause. 

Let's review the aforementioned causes in more detail.

Earwax buildup

Earwax buildup occurs when the ear produces too much wax or when the wax is pushed back into the ear canal (especially after using cotton swab). 

Earwax buildup can produce various symptoms, including:

  • Fullness or pressure in the ear
  • Earache
  • Muffled hearing

In some cases, earwax buildup can lead to a crackling sound in the ear. These sounds may occur when the wax becomes impacted in the ear canal, creating a blockage that interferes with sound transmission.

Eustachian tube dysfunction

The eustachian tubes are small tubes that connect the middle ear (i.e., air-filled space behind the eardrum) to the back of the throat. They are about the size of a pencil lead and lined with a thin mucus layer.

The primary function of the eustachian tubes is to equalize the pressure in the middle ear with the pressure outside the ear. When the eustachian tubes work correctly, they open and close quickly and easily, allowing air to flow in and out of the middle ear.

However, when the eustachian tubes become blocked or do not function properly, you may experience popping and crackling in the ear, making hearing difficult.

Eustachian tube dysfunction may also cause you to experience the following symptoms in the ear:

  • Fullness
  • A tickling sensation
  • Ringing (i.e., Tinnitus)
  • Pain resembling an ear infection

Dysfunction of the Eustachian tube can occur for various reasons, such as:

  • Allergies
  • Sinus infections
  • Cold

Acute otitis media

Acute otitis media is an infection of the middle ear from bacterial or viral infection. The condition can occur in adults and children, but Acute otitis media in children is more common.

The main symptoms of acute otitis media include:

  • Ear pain
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fullness or pressure in the ear
  • Crackling or popping sound

Ménière’s disease

Ménière's disease is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause episodes of vertigo or hearing loss. 

People with Meniere's disease often experience a feeling of fullness or pressure in the affected ear. 

One of the most distinctive Meniere's disease symptoms is tinnitus, which is a constant ringing, buzzing or humming sound in the affected ear. Some people also experience a low-pitched roar or a high-pitched whine. 

Temporomandibular disorders (TMJ disorders)

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is a hinge joint that connects the jawbone to the skull. It's responsible for the movements of the jaw in the following activities:

  • Chewing
  • Talking
  • Yawning

When there's a problem with the TMJ, it can lead to a condition called temporomandibular disorder (TMD). 

TMD can cause various symptoms, including pain or tenderness in the jaw joint, face, neck and shoulders. People with TMD may also experience difficulty opening their mouths wide and a clicking or crackling sound in the ear when moving the jaw.

Diagnosis of the cause of crackling in ear

If you're experiencing crackling in the ear, it's important to see a hearing care provider for a proper diagnosis. 

  • To begin the diagnostic process, your provider may use an otoscope to examine the inside of your ear for any visible signs of damage or injury. 
  • They may also perform specialized hearing tests to determine if there's any hearing loss or other issues that could be causing the crackling sound. 

By taking these steps, your provider can develop an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan to help you manage symptoms and improve your overall ear health.

How to stop crackling in ears?

While occasional crackling may not be a cause for concern, it's best to seek medical advice if it is severe and impacts your quality of life. 


Additionally, if you're experiencing hearing loss or other problems alongside the crackling, contact your doctor as soon as possible, as effective treatment will depend on your condition's underlying causes.



Removing earwax buildup

If you're experiencing earwax buildup, there are a few different treatment options you can explore to help reduce crackling in the ear.

Some people find that ear drops can help soften the wax and make it easier to remove, while others prefer manual earwax removal using tools like ear syringes or ear curettes. 

Again, talking to a hearing care provider is vital to determine the best course of action for your situation. 

Treatments for Eustachian tube dysfunction

If you're dealing with Eustachian tube dysfunction and experiencing crackling in the ear, one of the following treatments may help: 

  • Ear tube placement, which may equalize pressure in the middle ear
  • Decongestants may help reduce swelling and inflammation in the nasal passages, opening up the Eustachian tubes
  • Antihistamines
  • Allergy shots 

As everyone will experience symptoms differently, working with your provider can help you determine the best course of treatment.

Treatments for TMJ disorders

If you're living with TMJ disorder, several treatment options can help alleviate your symptoms. 

One of the most common treatments is using bite guards, which can help reduce teeth grinding and clenching. 

Other TMJ disorder treatment options include: 

  • Physical therapy
  • Medications
  • Lifestyle changes, such as stress reduction techniques

It's important to note that surgery is typically considered a last resort for TMJ disorders. It is a more invasive and risky option and may not always be practical. However, surgery might be necessary in some cases to correct severe cases of TMJ disorder.

Antibiotics for ear infection

If you or your child has been diagnosed with acute otitis media, your doctor may prescribe specific antibiotics for ear infections

Antibiotics help provide relief from the discomfort and pain associated with ear infections, which may be causing you to experience a crackling noise. 

Follow your doctor's instructions carefully and take the prescribed medication as directed to ensure the best possible outcome.

Home remedies for crackling in ear

  • One of the most effective remedies for crackling in the ear is nasal flushes, which can help clear out any congestion that may be causing the crackling. 
  • Applying a few drops of mineral oil to the affected ear can help lubricate the ear canal and reduce any associated crackling.
  • Physical therapy exercises for TMJ (temporomandibular joint) may also help reduce ear crackling. These exercises work to relieve tension in the jaw and reduce any associated pressure on the ear canal.

It is important to avoid using cotton swabs to clean the ears, as this can push earwax deeper into the ear canal, causing further problems. Instead, try using a warm, damp cloth to clean the outside of the ear gently.

Mom and son smiles

Hearing a Crackling in Ear?

Working with a professional to address crackling in the ear is crucial, as it can lead to further complications if left unattended. At Amplifon Hearing Health Care, we help you understand your insurance benefits and find a nearby hearing care provider. Let us help you take the first step toward better hearing health and quality of life.

Members Blog

Find all about the latest news
Go to the blog

Rediscover the joy of sound

About Amplifon Hearing Health Care

Find out more

FREE virtual hearing screening

New innovation