Do You Have a “Clicky” Ear?

Concept image of sound wave superimposed on an illustration of the human ear canalIt’s not unusual to experience a clicking, popping or crackling sound in the ears, and it’s rarely a sign of anything serious. However, if it occurs frequently, these sounds can affect someone’s quality of life and their sleep. It could also indicate some sort of underlying issues. Below are some common causes of a “clicky” ear.

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction

The Eustachian tubes are narrow passages that connect the middle ear to the throat. Their job is to drain fluid to keep it from building up in the middle ear and to equalize pressure between the middle ear and the environment. The Eustachian tubes mostly stay closed, opening only when a person swallows or yawns. Eustachian tube dysfunction describes tubes that are blocked or don’t function properly.

Eustachian tube dysfunction is fairly common, affecting about 4% of adults worldwide. Common causes for blocked Eustachian tubes include seasonal allergies, sinus infections and the common cold. Symptoms of Eustachian tube dysfunction include itchy ears, pain in the ears, fullness in the ear and muffled hearing.

Impacted Earwax

Earwax, also known as cerumen, is produced by the ear canal to protect the ears from debris and bacteria. Most of the time, earwax works its way out of the ears during natural jaw movements when talking and chewing. However, it can become impacted if it becomes blocked by a cotton swab, earplug or ear bud.

Impacted earwax can cover the eardrum and cause a crackling sound. Other symptoms include ear pain, itchy ear, coughing and fullness in the ear.

Ménière’s Disease

Ménière’s disease is a complex inner ear disorder that causes episodes of dizziness, hearing loss, fullness in the ear and tinnitus, which is the perception of noise like ringing or clicking with no external sound source. Ménière’s disease can affect anyone, though usually affects people between ages 20 and 50.

Temporomandibular Joint/Muscle Disorders

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and muscle disorders affect more than 10 million people in the U.S. They involve pain and trouble with the jaw joint, including stiffness, limited mobility, headaches and crackling sounds in the ears.


This information is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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