An ear, nose and throat doctor explains the causes of clicking sounds when you swallow and what can be done about this.
For this article I consulted with Dr. Stacey Silvers, MD, of Madison ENT & Facial Plastic Surgery in NYC, who is board certified in otolaryngology; one of her specialties is sinus surgery.
“Many people experience clicking in the ear when they swallow or chew,” says Dr. Silvers.
“The two main causes of this are the Eustachian tube and the temporal mandibular joint (TMJ).
“The Eustachian tube allows the middle ear to ‘breathe’ and function at the same atmospheric pressure that is in our environment.
“This tube ventilates the middle ear space and opens into the back of the nose.
“The act of breathing through the nose will allow air into the middle ear space through the Eustachian tube.
“This Eustachian tube opens and closes as needed to allow the correct pressure in the ears.
“The act of swallowing and chewing will help open this tube, as the palatal muscles are attached to the Eustachian tube.
“This is why chewing and swallowing are natural for us when we are landing on an airplane and the ears feel pain or pressure and we want them to pop.”
So what can cause the clicking noises when we swallow?
“If the mucous is thick that lines the Eustachian tube, associated with allergy or dehydration, then the tube can be sticky, not allowing good ventilation, and an appreciation of a sound when the tube opens and closes,” explains Dr. Silvers.
Solution for clicking noises when swallowing?
“Decongestants and proper hydration are usually the best treatment options for this.
“Some people have a patulous Eustachian tube and the tube simply functions poorly.
“Clicking can also be the bones rubbing in the TMJ joint. Some people have TMJ pain while others just experience the noises as the joint can rub with jaw movements.
“This is similar to a clicking in the knee when walking. You may want to visit a TMJ specialist and consider jaw strengthening exercises.”
Pay attention to how you bite into very hard food. A bout of clicking sounds can be triggered from repeatedly biting into hard blocks of chocolate, for instance, straining the TM joint.