Do you hear something thumping or fluttering around inside your ear, like a tiny moth flapping its wings?
The good news is that you probably don’t have an actual moth inside your ear, if for no other reason, it wouldn’t fit, let alone have room to fly around.
You also probably don’t have any other type of flying creature inside your ear.
On the other hand, something definitely is causing what you hear to be a little bug inside your ear batting its wings. You may hear it more than you feel it. Or, you may feel it more than you hear it. And it is driving you batty.
Cause of Thumping Inside Your Ear that Comes and Goes
“Random thumping in the ear is most likely caused by small spasms (myoclonus) or twitching in some small muscles in and around the ear or soft palate (specifically, the tensor tympani or stapedius muscles),” says Gene Liu, MD, MMM, President, Chair, Department of Surgery; Chief, Division of Otolaryngology, Cedars-Sinai Medical Group.
If this comes as a shock to you, it’s perhaps because you didn’t know that there are muscles inside your ear or that the soft palate actually has muscles.
“Myoclonus of the soft palate can also result in similar symptoms,” says Dr. Liu.
“When these muscles go through periods of spasm (much like when your eyebrow sometimes twitches), they can move the ear bones and/or change the pressure in the middle ear and lead to fluttering of the eardrum. This is what results in the sounds in the ear.
“These conditions can be really frustrating and annoying, but are almost always nothing to be concerned about.”
Tinnitus: Hearing Noises Inside Your Ear
Technically, this experience is a form of tinnitus. Tinnitus is the term for hearing sounds inside the ear. The most common form of tinnitus is the so-called ringing type, or a noise that’s described by patients as hissing, buzzing, a very high pitch steady tone, or something like a continuous “ssssssssss.”
Others describe their tinnitus as a crackling, static-like or tinkling sound. And then there are those who have the “whooshing” type of tinnitus. Sometimes this sound is described as a rhythmic “whoosh, whoosh” that’s in synch with their heartbeat.
The tinnitus that’s caused by inner ear or soft palate muscle twitching or spasms would be called a thumping type of tinnitus, like “something is flapping its wings inside my ear.”
Can the Thumping “Moth” Inside Your Ear Be Stopped?
Dr. Liu says, “If the symptoms continue more than a few weeks, I would recommend seeing an ENT physician or neurologist in order to be evaluated and to potentially explore treatment options.”
One treatment option may be supplemental magnesium citrate in powder form. This mineral helps relax muscles that are prone to spasm or twitching.
If you have no other symptoms such as new-onset hearing loss, pain in or near the ear or issues with balance or dizziness, you certainly don’t have to lose sleep over wondering if you have a brain tumor or serious neurological disease.
Hearing thumping inside your ear may make it tempting to stick your finger or a Q-tip in there to put an end to it. But do not do that. You might accidentally insert the object far enough to damage the eardrum.
Dr. Liu’s clinical areas of focus cover a broad range including surgery of the head and neck, sinuses and thyroid, and disorders of the ears, salivary glands and vocal cords.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.