Why Is There a Popping Noise in One of My Ears?

Popping noise in the ear is a condition that is bothersome and, usually, benign. These sounds can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes at a time, depending on the severity. Popping noise can usually be treated at home without a doctor's care, although prolonged effects should receive more serious medical attention.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Primary Cause

A change in air pressure on both sides of the eardrum is the primary cause of popping noise in the ear. When the eustachian tube becomes blocked, air pressure builds until the middle-ear air pressure cannot fully equalize. Air pressure differences typically occur when flying or driving at high altitudes.


The eardrum is stretched and sucked inward when the eustachian tube becomes blocked or obstructed. This often painful condition can create popping noise and make hearing difficult.


Two common remedies include swallowing and yawning. Gargling with warm saltwater to clear the eustachian tubes, sucking on candy, chewing gum or taking a nasal decongestant can also provide relief from popping noise.


Popping noise can be a preliminary sign of a more serious condition known as barotrauma, which results from a sustained state of unequalized pressure on both sides of the eardrum. Pain and sometimes hearing loss can result if this condition is left untreated.

See a Doctor

Extended popping noise, fever, ear damage and other prolonged symptoms should be discussed with an ear doctor, who can determine if the eardrum has been damaged.