A quiet rumbling sound

For years I’ve been able to do this useless little trick, and it wasn’t until just yesterday that I actually started to wonder what the heck it is that I’m doing.

I can, at will, cause a quiet rumbling sound in my ears. It involves tensing some sort of muscle, apparently, because whatever it is gets fatigued after sustaining this rumble for more than 10 or 15 seconds at a time.

I’ve been able to discover that I’m not the only person in the world who can do this, but no one seems entirely certain as to what the sound is or how it’s created.

I’m guessing that it’s the sound of blood rushing, but that’s just…well, a guess.

Anyone know anything about this phenomena? Does it have a name? How does it work?

I know the trick you mean…I always presumed it was blocking or tensing the eustachian tube, making a small pocket of air which vibrates with the blood flow. But I may be wrong :slight_smile:

Where is the muscle you’re tensing?

I can do it, but I can only manage about 6 seconds :frowning:

Somewhere inside the ear, it feels like it is just slightly forward (i.e. towards my face ratehr than the back of my head) of the actual ear hole, and about an inch inside my ear.

I can’t locate it – I know that it’s not my neck or throat, or at least I cannot tell if it’s either of those. I can just…cause the sound, and something gets tired from doing so.

If, when you’ve tensed this muscle, your breathing sounds much louder than normal to you, then you’ve opened you Eustachian tubes. This little trick is quite useful for equalizing the pressure in your inner ear when flying (or otherwise undergoing a large change in external pressure).

Hmmm. Yeah, it sounds like you’re just forcing your eustachian tubes open. If you hold your breath while doing it, does the noise stop? I think I can do what you’re talking about, but to me it sounds more like wind blowing into your ear than “rumbling”. The sound is slightly different while inhaling than exhaling.

The muscle in question is probably the tensor tympani, which as the name implies, is used to adjust the tension of the eardrum. Here is a description of the phenomenon on the MadSci Network. The rumbling sound has nothing to do with the eustachian tubes.

If I do it, especially when I try to hold it for an extended period [trying to compare my times to the ones mentioned above], I start yawning. Does this happen to anyone else? And why would that be the result, given the explanation on the above cite about the inner ear?

I can make the noise while holding my breath.

Weird. That MadSci link suggests that only a small percentage of people can do it. I always assumed everyone can do it.

I can confirm that it has nothing to do with breathing - I can do it while holding my breath, and the sound of breathing is not altered if I breath while doing it (although this requires a bit more co-ordination!)

I often get the rumbling sond while yawning, and to do it voluntrarily seems to involve a similar technique - almost stretching somewhere between the back of my throat and my ears… it;s very hard to describe.

So, can anyone not do it? We’ll soon see if this “small percentage” thing is bunk.

I can do it. I think it is opening your east-asian tube as it helps unblock my ears if I do it when flying. I can’t do it very well if I’m breathing though so can’t test whether it makes my breathing sound louder.

The rumbling sound may not be directly caused by the opening of the tubes, but I know that it is caused by tensing the muscles I use to unblock my ears in descending aircraft or trains in tunnels, so there must be at least a tenuous connection.

Tensing those muscles is also a good way of inducing a yawn, by the way…

I’ve always been able to do it as far back as I can remember. I assumed everyone could do it and never thought to ask about it. I can control the “volume” from just on the edge of hearing to a roaring rumble. If I keep it very low,I can do it almost as long as I want,but after a while it’s quite irritating,so I’ve never tested the limits.It doesn’t make me yawn.

Q.E.D.'s cite also mentioned that a small percentage of the population can wiggle their external ears.I’ve always been able to do that,too,although I knew that not everyone could. Can everyone who posted that they can produce the “rumble” also wiggle their ears?

I’m beginning to feel quite superior.Perhaps those of us who can perform both these monumental feats should break away and form our own private message board. We can sneer at the Mensaroids,or anyone else who doesn’t have our super powers.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No,it’s a flock of RUMBLEWIGGLERS!

I can. Oddly enough, I only discovered this ability at age 16, when I started wearing glasses. I found myself subconsiously using my ears to pull them back up if they slipped down my nose.

I don’t know if this is the accepted method for wiggling ones ears, but I can move them by moving my scalp. Yeah, it’s handy for pulling your glasses back up your nose, and for waving at people when you have no free hands.