Do You Have a “Clicky” Ear?

It’s not uncommon to experience a clicking, popping or crackling sound in the ears on occasion. However, for some it is pervasive and bothersome, and may even affect quality of life, daily tasks and sleep. There are many conditions that can cause this sensation, several of which are outlined below.

Inflamed Eustachian Tubes

close-up of a woman's ear.

The Eustachian tubes connect the middle ear to the throat and are responsible for draining fluids and equalizing pressure. Many notice a slight popping sound when they swallow, which is a normal sound stemming from the movement of the Eustachian tubes.

If the Eustachian tubes become inflamed due to allergies, a cold or the flu, the popping sounds can be exacerbated. These sounds may be caused by pressure changes in the middle ear as the tubes open or from the sound of the tube itself opening. An ENT physician can examine the back of the throat with a lighted camera to see if there are any obvious obstructions, but inflammation inside the tube is difficult to visually confirm. Steroids may be used to reduce inflammation.

Muscular Spasms

The two small muscles in the middle ear – the tensor tympani and the stapes – can sometimes begin to spasm. These rhythmic contractions can cause someone to hear a sound like a fluttering butterfly. This can occur unpredictability in bursts, causing annoyance and disturbing sleep.

A stethoscope may be used to listen to the ear, and tympanometry may be conducted to measure changes in pressure and muscle contractions. Treatment for these types of spasms is difficult, but they may be corrected with muscle relaxants or surgery.

Palatal Myoclonus

This condition entails the palate muscles, which are connected to the Eustachian tube and middle ear muscles, having rhythmic contractions. This can sometimes be caused by a brainstem neurological condition, although this is rare. A doctor can check for this with a scope, and an MRI scan may be ordered. This condition can be treated with Botox injections.

For more information or to schedule an appointment for an ear evaluation, call the experts at Topeka ENT today.

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