Sometimes odd noises coming from inside your ears are a sign of an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed. And sometimes not so much. Here’s a rundown of possible sources for odd snaps, crackles, and pops that become ongoing background noise.

The most benign possibility? Earwax. Some people have fingernails that grow like wildfire — and some folks can crank out the earwax. And too much of it can create some odd noises, including ringing and buzzing. If it’s especially deep in the ear it can even come into contact with the eardrum and alter its functioning.

But don’t try to fix that on your own. If earwax has truly accumulated deep in the ear a doctor or hearing health professional should take care of it. This is due to the risk of puncturing or otherwise damaging the eardrum.

Another problem can be something called Eustachian Tube Dysfunction. It’s usually caused by a buildup of fluid in its namesake, a small passage from the inner ear to the back of the nose. It’s a tiny but very important part of the body, one that opens when you swallow or yawn (and blow your nose). It acts to equalize pressure and protect the eardrum from being damaged by big pressure swings. Allergies, colds, or enlarged adenoids are usually the culprit causing this problem.

Popping and crackling is the primary symptom and can be quite annoying. Things will usually clear up on their own, but steroid nasal sprays can bring quick relief.

Hearing a thumping — especially one that matches your pulse — is not unusual and is known as pulsatile tinnitus. An overactive thyroid can bring on the kind of blood flow changes causes the syndrome, though exercise and pregnancy and other factors can as well. It rarely requires treatment.

These conditions all fall within the range of normal. They are rarely anything more than bothersome. But if they persist or become truly distracting then medical attention is worth pursuing.