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Is it normal to hear sounds in my ear?

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I have this weird "creaking" sound in my left ear. It just started this morning and is driving me crazy. It's a soft sound, almost like a vibration, like someone walking on creaking floorboards. It occurs when I swallow or move my head, or sometimes when I'm doing nothing at all. I am 37 and in otherwise fine health. I do swim regularly. I have historically had problems with my ears, lots of infections when I was a child, and resultant scarring/minor hearing loss.
Posted Mon, 7 May 2012 in Ear, Nose and Throat Problems
Answered by Dr. Sumit Bhatti 2 hours later
Dear Kelleybowers,

Thank you for your query.

1. The sounds and vibrations that you are hearing is absolutely normal and at the most signify Eustachian Tube Dysfunction.

2. The Eustachian Tubes equalize the air pressure on the inside of our eardrum to match the outside atmospheric pressure. The outer end of the Eustachian Tube in the middle ear is bony and does not have any moving part. Air flowing through this opening can be heard at times and the middle ear also has moving parts and tiny muscles.

3. The inner end is made up of cartilage and muscles which are also attached
to the palate. Therefore swallowing and turning the head causes movement of these structures.

4. Opening and closing of the Eustachian Tubes can give rise to creaking, popping, clicking sounds and vibrations in the ears and the face. So can contractions of the muscles forming the soft palate. Myoclonus is involuntary muscle spasms which may also cause sounds and vibrations in the same region.

5.The nasal skeleton (framework) is made up of multiple cartilages and can also give rise to crackling sounds. Mucosal contact and release, shifting secretions and blocked sinuses can also cause passive sounds. In some patients, just bending the head forwards sometimes causes similar sensations.

6. The Valsalva Manuever (forceful attempted exhalation against a closed airway, usually done by closing one's mouth and pinching one's nose shut) causes unnatural pressure build up in the nasopharynx and forces the Eustachian tubes open.

7. If these sounds and vibrations persist, get an Impedance Audiogram (I/A) and a PTA (Pure Tone Audiogram) done. If these are normal, ignore the problem. If the I/A shows mild Eustachian Dysfunction (and you do have scarring), an anti-allergic decongestant and steam inhalation will take care of your problem. Severe dysfunction may require ventilation tubes.(which means no swimming til the tubes are there).

8. Have you had any sudden weight loss? There is a pad of fat supporting the inner Eustachian tube. This may reduce, changing the airflow characteristics and causing these sensations.

9. In childhood , usually the adenoids cause these problems. In an adult, the adenoids are normally non existent.

10. Be careful with long term birth control pill use. They have their own set of side effects.

Hope I have answered your query. If you have any follow up queries I will be available to answer them.

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