You might expect to hear a creak from your ankles or knees when running, but clicking in your head is unexpected and a concern.
A clicking sound in your head when you run most likely results from tinnitus. Tinnitus is a symptom of other conditions such as hearing loss and jaw-joint disorders; it produces sounds such as ringing or clicking in your ears and head.
Although exercise generally helps relieve the stress associated with tinnitus, high-impact activities such as running may exacerbate this condition. If the clicking sound is persistent or accompanied by other symptoms, consult your doctor to determine the specific cause of the clicking noises in your head.
Tinnitus is a common problem that causes hearing sensations such as ringing, roaring, buzzing and clicking in your head or ears when no other noise is present. It can occur for many reasons including ear or hearing problems, ear injuries, excessive ear wax, sinus infections, brain tumors, heart disorders and blood vessel diseases, as well as for no apparent reason at all.
Tinnitus symptoms can appear in one or both ears and can come and go -- whether you're resting or performing high-impact aerobic or other exercises. Tinnitus sensations may also be heard along with each heartbeat, called pulsatile tinnitus.
The repeated high-impact motions experienced in running may negatively affect tiny parts of your ears associated with hearing and increase the presence of tinnitus. Listening to white noise or other low sounds while you run or at other times may help counteract these annoying sensations.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
Temporomandibular joint disorders, or TMJ disorders, can result in tinnitus and pain in the joint that allows you to chew and talk -- your jaw joint. TMJ disorders can occur from muscle fatigue produced by clenching or grinding your teeth and arthritis. Symptoms of this disorder include jaw, ear or facial pain, uncomfortable chewing and headache.
TMJ can also create a clicking sound in your head when you open your mouth or when you compress your teeth. Exercises such as running or jogging, in which your teeth tend to clamp together, can exacerbate TMJ symptoms. Brisk walking may provide an easier way to exercise and relieve stress without causing you to clamp your jaw.
Tinnitus and Jaw Clenching
Research published in the November 2008 journal Seminars in Hearing investigated the effects of jaw clenching and other movements on the loudness and pitch of tinnitus through a survey of 93 tinnitus sufferers. Among other findings, researchers discovered that 90 percent of the participants experienced louder hearing sensations when they clenched their jaws.
Forty-one percent of the subjects reported that jaw clenching doubled the loudness and 26 percent indicated tripled loudness. In addition, 90 percent of the cases reported that jaw clenching increased the pitch of their sensations. Pitch increases doubled in 40 percent of the subjects and 14 percent indicated a tripled pitch when they clenched their jaws.
Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
Eustachian tube dysfunction can also result in cracking, clicking or popping noises when you run and at other times. Your Eustachian tubes, small passages that connect the upper part of your throat to your middle ears, open when you sneeze, swallow or yawn to allow airflow. When one of your Eustachian tubes gets clogged by mucus, due to a sinus infection, a cold or allergies, you may experience the sounds of tinnitus.
Pain may also occur in one or both of your ears and you may have difficulty keeping your balance. Altitude changes, such as when flying, riding in elevators, diving or running in high or low elevations, can increase the noise you hear. To help relieve Eustachian tube dysfunction, perform exercises such as swallowing and chewing gum, as well as taking a deep breath and breathing out with your mouth closed and your nostrils pinched together.
Palatal Myoclonus and Acoustic Neuroma
Palatal myoclonus and acoustic neuroma may also be culprits in the clicking sensations you experience while you run and throughout the day and night. Palatal myoclonus is a type of disorder that produces uncontrolled jerking of a muscle or group of muscles.
This muscle disorder produces a pattern of extremely rapid contractions -- about 150 times a minute -- on one or both sides of the back of the roof of your mouth, or your soft palate.
Palatal myoclonus can cause the sounds of tinnitus in your ear or head as the muscles in your soft palate contract. Acoustic neuroma, a noncancerous tumor, develops on the nerve that leads from your inner ear to your brain. Symptoms include gradual or sudden hearing loss on one side, tinnitus in one of your ears and loss of balance due to the tumor’s pressure on your nerves, blood vessels and other brain components.