Sometimes, the noise you hear doesn’t have anything to do with your throat. It’s the act of swallowing that’s affecting your ears. Crackling or popping when you swallow is a common symptom of those with an eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD). Your ears have a tube in the back of your throat that opens and closes. It’s vital for pressure balance in the ear, drainage of fluid, and protecting you from hearing all the sounds of your body, per Johns Hopkins Medicine.
However, when you have a dysfunction in this tube, it can lead to pain and pressure in the ear. It can also cause a popping or cracking sound when you swallow. According to Cleveland Clinic, about 1% of adults have this disorder, which comes in different varieties. Patulous ETD means the tubes stay open, while obstructive ETD means they stay closed. The third type, baro-challenge-induced ETD, means the eustachian tubes don’t open appropriately at certain altitudes.
Allergies, colds, and viruses typically cause ETD, but it can be irritated by GERD or acid reflux. Additional symptoms include ringing in the ears, hearing problems, and dizziness. Medications to help with inflammation are beneficial to help open up the tubes. Severe cases may require surgery.