A sudden ringing or rubber band sound in your ear may happen for many reasons. Older people and children may experience this symptom due to a disorder or an earwax build-up in their ear. You may treat your condition with at-home remedies like using an ear-drop and clean cloth to remove excess earwax. However, ear disorders that cause complete loss of hearing will need to have surgery.
When I was a kid, my grandmother brought me to an ear doctor because I was suffering from the high-pitch ringing sound in my right ear. It happened after I cleaned my ears with Qtip the wrong way.
The doctor found a build-up of earwax that got pushed back deep inside my ear. He then prescribed me to use an ear drop.
A week later, he cleaned my ears with a long, thin, and noisy tool that sucked out the wax. I went out of the clinic feeling like I just had a new ear.
What causes the rubber band sound in your ear?
A build-up of ear wax
Earwax or cerumen is naturally produced by our body to lubricate our ears and protect them from unwanted foreign materials like dust and microorganisms.
An excess amount of earwax would naturally find its way out from our ears.
However, if you have a habit of using earplugs or cleaning your ears with cotton swabs, you are prone to blocking your ear canal. In addition, these practices may push your excess wax back inside your ear, forming a build-up.
An impacted or build-up of ear wax may present symptoms that are listed below;
- Difficulty or abrupt partial loss of hearing
- Pain and itchiness in the affected ear
- Ringing or weird sound in the ear
- A feeling of fullness in the ear
- Earwax discharge or odor from the ear
If your symptoms persist and you suspect to have build-up in your ears, you must see your doctor immediately.
An ear, nose, and tongue (ENT) specialist will use an otoscope to examine your ears if there is an impacted build-up of wax.
Your doctor will most likely give you an ear drop that will help soften the wax. Then, when the earwax is ready for removal, they will insert a special instrument (an ear micro-suction tool) that will perform like a vacuum sucking out the earwax from your ear.
You may also try at-home remedies but don’t dig out the build-up inside your ear. It may lead to damage and infection of your eardrums.
Your doctor may manually remove the blockage by using a curette if an ear micro-suction isn’t necessary.
Below are some of the things you can do at home to remove or soften the build-up in your ear.
- Use over-the-counter ear drops. You may follow the instructions on the box for the dosage and use a clean cloth to remove the wax that will come out from your ear.
- Alternatives like mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, hydrogen peroxide, or olive oil may also work. Again, do not use a cotton swab in cleaning the deep part of your ear. Only remove the earwax that is seen on the outer part of your ear with a clean cloth.
- Flush it out using a saline solution. Your doctor may perform this procedure, or you can use a home bulb syringe and water kit.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and muscle disorders
If the rubber band sound in your ear occurs with pain when you’re eating or talking, it may be due to TMJ and muscle disorder.
The temporomandibular joint is found between your lower jaw and your skull, just near your ear canal. It is responsible for the movement of your jaw when talking or eating.
Below are some of the common symptoms of a person with a TMJ and muscle disorder;
- Pain in face or neck
- Difficulty in moving the jaw at a full range
- Earaches associated with buzzing and ringing sounds
- Unusual sound like clicking or popping when moving the jaw
Your primary health care physician may recommend you to a dentist or an ENT specialist to diagnose your condition. There are no standard tests for this type of disorder. However, doctors will assess your symptoms and check your jaw for any signs of abnormalities. You may undergo imaging tests like;
- CT scan to check the bones and joint tissues of your jaw
- MRI to examine any abnormalities in the structure of your jaw
You may treat your condition at home, especially if you only present mild symptoms. Your doctors may also give you steroid injections if your disorder is caused by osteoarthritis.
If your condition worsens, your doctor may require you to undergo surgery to fix or replace the joint in your jaw. Some may get a corrective dental treatment or an arthrocentesis depending on the severity of their TMJ disorder.
Below are some of the things you can do at home to treat your condition;
- Avoid chewing gums or activities that will cause clenching or tensing your jaw.
- Eat only soft foods to restrict movement in your jaw when eating.
- Massage and stretch your affected jaw every once in a while.
- Apply an ice pack or use a hot compress to reduce swelling and help with the pain.
- Use a mouthguard, especially when sleeping which your dentist will provide for you.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers to ease any discomfort.
Eustachian Tube Dysfunction (ETD)
When your Eustachian tubes or the small tubes found between your middle ears and upper throat gets clogged up, you may experience various symptoms. These include the following;
- Pain and discomfort on the ears
- Weird ringing, clicking, or popping sounds
- The feeling of fullness or plugged ears
- Difficulty or muffled hearing
Diagnosis and Treatments
You must see a doctor when severe symptoms develop within two weeks. An ENT specialist will examine your ears for signs of ETD. If your condition is not that bad, they may let you follow at-home remedies and prescribe medication to lessen the pain.
In worse cases, doctors will have to do procedures like implanting pressure equalization tubes (PETs) to equalize ear pressure and help treat the infection. They may also have to perform a small incision in your eardrum to drain fluids that are clogged up in your eustachian tubes.
There is still no known cause for this disease. However, it will present symptoms like dizziness, headaches, and vomiting caused by vertigo that usually comes on as “episodes” lasting from a few minutes up to a day.
Other symptoms of the disease include the following;
- Ringing (tinnitus), clicking, or popping sounds in the affected ear
- The feeling of fullness and plugged ear
- Muffled or loss of hearing
- Loss of balance
Your doctor may let you have a hearing test (audiometry), including tests to measure the electrical activity in your inner ear or the function of your hearing nerve, and a balancing test.
You may also have to get an MRI or CT scan to help doctors detect other possible health issues, which symptoms are similar to Ménière’s disease.
When doctors finally rule out your condition, they will prescribe you medicines for your vertigo. Doctors may also give you diuretics to help flush out excess fluids from your body.
You may also have to see a physical therapist to start exercises to help you with your symptoms. If you experience frequent or complete hearing loss, you may have to wear hearing aids.
Doctors will have to perform surgery to reduce the production and build-up of fluid in your inner ear.
This happens when a small bone in your middle ear or the stapes becomes stuck and can’t properly vibrate, disrupting your hearing.
The common symptoms for otosclerosis include the following;
- Loss of hearing or deafness
- Loss of balance
- Dizziness, headaches, or vertigo
- Ringing (tinnitus), clicking, popping, roaring, or hissing sounds in the affected ear
An otolaryngologist or ENT specialist will examine your ear for signs of the disorder. They will let you have a CT scan to see in-depth imaging of the structure in your ear.
Your doctor may require you for a stapedectomy, a surgical procedure to fix the stuck stape bones in your ear.
However, if surgery isn’t necessary, your doctor may recommend the following;
- Watchful waiting. You will have to wait and watch if your symptoms will get better. Doctors will monitor your condition by giving you hearing tests regularly.
- Wearing hearing aids. It will help you with your hearing loss but doesn’t treat your disorder.
- Taking alternative treatments. Your doctor may recommend drugs like sodium fluoride. However, this hasn’t been proven to cure the condition.
If you experience having a rubber band sound or unusual ringing in your ears, this may subside in a few days. If your symptoms persist within a week and your temporary hearing loss worsens, you must see a doctor immediately.
When doing at-home or alternative treatments, make sure to follow instructions in the medicines, or it’s better to consult them with your doctor.