Experiencing fluttering in the ear is a relatively common abnormality experienced by many people. It is often the sign of a problem occurring within the delicate structures of the ear. While some instances of ear flutter are benign, some cases may worsen, not permanently go away despite all efforts if left untreated.
Having a fluttering sound in the ear can be very annoying and even lead to distress. It can make us fixated on what is causing this sensation in the ears, often distracting us from other things in life. It can even lead to anxiety, lack of sleep, poor school or work performance, and even decreased mood.
A medical term that may be used to refer to a fluttering in the ears is called tinnitus. This term can be applied to those who experience various abnormal sounds in the ear such as ringing, whistling, hissing, clicking, popping, crackling, and of course, fluttering.
What causes fluttering in the ear?
Tinnitus is usually a symptom of a pre-existing condition in the body. While there are various conditions associated with tinnitus, how it results in a constant fluttering sound is not known. However, most cases of tinnitus are associated with damage to the auditory system, which may involve auditory structures, nerves, or even problems with blood supply. The following are the commonly recognized causes of ear fluttering:
Blood pressure: A very common cause of fluttering sounds in the ear. Having high blood pressure causes blood to push on the delicate structures of the ear, leading to the fluttering. Incidents of increased stress or even alcohol and caffeine consumption can make tinnitus more pronounced. Conditions related to blood vessels that have contributing effects on blood pressure include atherosclerosis, turbulent blood flow, malformation of capillaries, and even head and neck tumors.
Sinus infection: Commonly due to a bacterial infection, sinus infections cause your sinuses to become filled with fluid, resulting in increased sinus pressure and pain. This increase in facial pressure can lead to fluttering in the ear and dizziness as well as make you feel nauseous and create headaches.
Eustachian tube dysfunction: Another common cause of experiencing fluttering sounds in the ear is the abnormality in the small tube that connects the near between the back of the nose and the upper part of the throat. The eustachian tube’s function is to circulate air within the middle, which plays a role in maintaining a balance between internal and external air pressure. This can often be seen in action during altitude changes when you experience a popping sound in the ear. When there is a eustachian tube dysfunction, such as in the case of respiratory infection or an allergic reaction blocking the tube, the fluid accumulation can occur. This leads the pressure inside to become higher than normal and possibly create a fluttering-like sound when you open your mouth and yawn.
Drugs or medications: There are many over-the-counter and prescription drugs that can damage the auditory nerve, which is responsible for allowing us to hear. They are often referred to as being ototoxic. If used incorrectly and as a side effect of using the drug, a patient may experience sudden hearing loss, tinnitus, or uncomfortable sounds such as popping, crunching, or fluttering in the ear. This may be seen when taking high doses of ibuprofen, certain antibiotic medication, and some diuretic drugs.
Thyroid gland: An important part of the body the regulates how the body burns energy or our metabolism. It also plays a role in hormone regulation. Complications of the thyroid, namely Hypothyroidism, can lead to lower energy levels, increased sensitivity to pain, weight gain, and even tinnitus
Ear wax: Considered one of the leading causes of experiencing a flutter sound in your ears, ear wax can become dry and can cover the eardrum. Due to this structure being a vital component in the conduction of sound, having a hard substance such as dry ear wax covering it can lead to a flutter-like vibration of the eardrum.
Symptoms of fluttering in the ear
Having a constant flutter in the ear is not only disrupting during daily activities but also puts a great deal of stress on mental health, as there is virtually no escape from the incessant sound. Most people who suffer from tinnitus often use other noises to mask this sound in their ears, using sources such as the radio, a fan, or the television to obtain relief or distraction.
Having fluttering sounds in the ear is often an early sign of hearing loss. Some individuals complain of loss of balance during a sudden attack of tinnitus.
Related: How to reverse hearing loss
Treatment for fluttering in the ear
Controlling blood pressure: Chronically high blood pressure needs to be treated with medication. Some cases may need the aid of several classes of blood pressure drugs to help keep it in normal range.
Valsalva maneuver: Accomplished by keeping the mouth closed while you pinch your nostrils, then taking a deep breath through your mouth and trying to blow the air through your nose again. You may hear a slight popping sound, which indicates the eustachian tubes—the auditory tube that links the nasopharynx to the middle ear—is open again. Please be advised not to blow through your nose with excessive force, as this may cause irreversible damage to the eardrum.
Steam: A common remedy for those suffering from sinus congestion, the use of steam can also help to relieve clogged ears. By filling a bowl with steaming water and putting your head over it while under a towel, the ears can become unblocked. It is important to be careful when handling boiling water as it and the steam it produces can easily lead to burns.
Changes in eating habits: Drinking a minimum of eight glasses of water a day helps to keep you from becoming dehydrated, a cause of muscle cramps in the neck, shoulders, and mandibular joints. Getting your daily recommended values of calcium and magnesium through your diet has been found to play a role in promoting health and possibly preventing causes of fluttering in the ear. An average adult requires a daily magnesium intake of 310mg, while the average calcium intake is around 1000mg per day. Foods with high cholesterol are not good for people with persistent tinnitus.
Lifestyle changes: Getting enough sleep, practicing yoga, and making an effort to get regular exercise are all things you can do to promote health and decrease stress levels. Also, keeping a diary of when you are feeling tired or exhausted and recording your emotions can help you get better control over possible stress-related causes leading to experiencing crackling in the ear.
Injection of botulinum toxin: Under the guidance of an experienced doctor, the use of this neurotoxic protein may provide relief for some patients.
How to get rid of fluttering in the ear
Understanding what has caused your particular case of fluttering in the ear will help you get rid of it, or at the very least, help you cope. Permanent cases of tinnitus promote relaxation techniques for alleviating symptoms. Some may also find benefit from using homeopathic drugs such as Bryonia and Thuja, which have been touted as helping people deal with tinnitus symptoms.
Fluttering in the ears can be the initial signs of a more serious underlying condition and cause great distress if not treated properly. If you can’t find a practical tinnitus relieving remedy on your own, seeing your doctor about your symptoms is the next best option.
Related: Common causes of sharp pain in ear and home remedies