Ear popping/clicking tic

I have an ear popping tic that I have done for years. I was startled recently when Ben, the host of Tourette’s Podcast in the US, talked about having this very tic with his guest. It begs the question; how many people have this ear popping/clicking tic?

An ear popping and/or clicking tic is one that involves creating a sound or sensation in the ears. This can be a high-pitch clicking sound, or a low-pitch ‘thud’. It is hard to describe the sensation, as well as the method to carry out the tic.

I was on the number 43 bus in London heading to work one morning, listening to Ben’s podcast on route.

The two couldn’t believe it after realising they share this tic. And I couldn’t believe it when I heard two other people share this experience with me. I laughed as I was getting off the bus.

A high pitched 'clicking' tic

This is a high pitched ‘click’ similar to clicking a pen, or the sound of walking on dry leaves.

I don’t have to put much effort into making this sound, it is all internal. As far as I am aware, it doesn’t really cause me to make a face or specific movements.

I cannot even describe how I do it, other than carrying out some very subtle movements inside the ears.

It can also be associated with a jaw tic I have. I tense my jaw and snap it down. I can make an internal clicking sound here too, and is almost indistinguishable doing it as I type this post.

A low pitched 'thud' or 'popping' tic

I do this one by exhaling out my nose and moving my mouth in a certain way. I can only describe it as moving my mouth down in the same way I would if I was trimming my beard just under my nose. It seems doing this helps pop my ears.

I used to get a thunder sound in my ears a lot. When I asked my GP about this as a kid (on my frequent visits to the doctors because of my tics) she told me to hold my nose and then blow. It helped to some degree, but I soon realised that I could do this popping sound without holding my nose first.

I also realized that if I did this on a plane when my ears were blocked because of pressure, IT HURT LIKE HELL. Of course, this developed into a tic to keep doing it. Pain related tics were a common theme when I was a child.

Ear popping is a technique used by professional divers

As I was listening to Ben on the podcast talk about this, he stated that this is a trick divers do to relieve pressure in their ears. This is called Equalizing after looking it up, and here is an article from a scuba diving website about what it consists of.

This was news to me but instantly made me feel better about doing it. I have always wondered if this was harming my ears in some way. Maybe it is, but at least I know I am not the only one.

Do you call it clicking, popping or clearing?

The first high-pitched clicking tic is one I need to do purely because of a sensory urge to do so. The lower-pitch drum sound is sometimes done to clear my ears, but this developed into a tic.

Sometimes the action can cause my ears to block further, to the point that I feel a big build up of pressure in my ear and head. It can also cause mild earache, but no more of an inconvenience compared to my other tics.

Do you have this ear popping/clicking tic? It sounds like it is awfully common in the tic-disorder community.

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Hi, I'm Sam. I write about Tourette and OCD to help myself and others.


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