Clicking in your ear when running 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. Only your doctor can determine the specific cause of the clicking noises in your head.
What is Tinnitus?
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, according to Mayo Clinic. This symptom 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 are 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, according to Cleveland Clinic. 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 clamping your jaw.
Tinnitus and Jaw Clenching
According to the British Tinnitus Association, tinnitus is strongly linked to jaw joint dysfunction. Muscles that you use to chew food are insert on bones in the middle ear, which might contribute to tinnitus. Ligaments also attach your jaw to hearing bones and nerves that supply your jaw joint are linked to the area of the brain that controls hearing.
Read more: How to Strengthen Your Jaw Muscles
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, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. 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, you can 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.
- Mayo Clinic: "Tinnitus"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Temporomandibular Disorders (TMD): Overview"
- British Tinnitus Association: "Tinnitus and disorders of the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) and neck"
- American Academy of Family Physicians: "Eustachian Tube Dysfunction"
- "Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness"; Vestibulopathy... ; M.I. Weintraub; March 1994