Why Does My Ear Keep Popping?

Uncover the Common Causes of Ear Popping and How to Find Relief
Last update on Jun, 24, 2024

Most of us are familiar with the sensation of a "pop" in our ears while descending in an airplane or diving deep underwater, but have you ever experienced a popping sound in the ear while sitting at work or relaxing at home?

Ear popping is often temporary, especially when caused by air pressure or altitude changes. However, persistent ear popping may indicate an underlying issue, such as Eustachian tube dysfunction or a middle ear infection.

This article will explore what causes a popping sound in the ear, why it occurs, what it means, and how to find relief. 

Why Is My Ear Popping?

Our ears are equipped with Eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the upper throat and back of the nasal cavity. These tubes play a vital role in equalizing the pressure between the middle ear and the air outside.

Whenever there's a significant change in altitude, like a plane ascending or descending, the air pressure outside the ear changes, causing the Eustachian tubes to open and close, resulting in a "popping" sensation.

Other causes of popping in ear:

You can experience a popping sound in the ear when your Eustachian tubes are working properly (i.e., trying to equalize pressure on a plane) and when they're not. When these tubes become blocked by inflammation or fluid, pressure begins to build up in the middle ear.

The pressure imbalance can result in the sensation of the ears popping (or crackling) as the body attempts to equalize the pressure. This is known as Eustachian tube dysfunction and may occur due to various factors, including:

  • Allergies
  • Sinus infections
  • Otitis media (i.e., middle ear infection)

Why Is My Ear Popping During Allergy Season?

Allergies can lead to blockage or inflammation of your nose and Eustachian tubes. When you're exposed to allergens such as pollen, dust mites, or animal dander, your immune system can react by releasing histamines and other chemicals.

These substances can lead to inflammation and swelling of the nasal passages and eustachian tubes, which can then affect their normal function. When they become blocked or swollen, they can cause a feeling of fullness, popping, or even temporary hearing loss in the ears. 

Is Popping in the Ear Serious?

While occasional ear popping is usually nothing to worry about, remember to consult a hearing care provider if you experience prolonged or severe ear popping that's accompanied by other concerning symptoms like pain, swelling, or discharge. 

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Popping Sound in the Ear? 5 Steps Towards Relief

Here are a few techniques to keep in mind to help you reduce the sensation of ears popping:

1. Chew or swallow

2. Yawn

3. Decongestants

4. Equalize pressure

5. Hydrate

1. Chew or swallow

Chewing gum or swallowing

These actions can stimulate the muscles and mechanisms associated with the Eustachian tubes, promoting their opening, which can, in turn, help equalize the pressure between the middle ear and your outside environment. 
Man chewing gum

2. Yawn


Yawning can also encourage the muscles in the back of your throat to move, which can aid in opening the Eustachian tubes and allowing air to flow in or out of the middle ear. 
Woman yawning

3. Decongestants

Reduce congestion

If your ear popping is due to allergies or sinus congestion, ask your clinician for recommendations on over-the-counter (OTC) decongestants to reduce inflammation that may be blocking your Eustachian tubes.
Woman blowing nose

4. Equalize pressure

Valsalva maneuver

You may have heard of this technique before. It involves a person gently blowing out while pinching the nostrils and keeping the mouth closed. The Valsalva maneuver works by attempting to equalize the pressure in the middle ear with an external pressure.  It’s important to talk to your hearing care provider prior to attempting this maneuver to avoid potential harm to the ears or eardrums.

5. Hydrate

Drink water

Drinking plenty of water helps thins mucus to prevent buildup or blockage of your nose and throat and to promote proper Eustachian tube function.
Woman drinking water

When Should I See a Doctor?

Contact a provider if you experience prolonged ear popping or if this sensation is accompanied by other symptoms, including:

  • Pain
  • Dizziness
  • Hearing loss
  • Fluid drainage from the ear

These symptoms could indicate an underlying ear or sinus issue that requires medical intervention or antibiotics to treat the root cause.

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