10 sounds you don't want your body to make
1. Popping and cracking knees and ankles These sounds are usually the result of one of three things: tendons snapping over joints, fluid shifts that pop gas bubbles, or joints moving slightly off track, says C. David Geier, MD, director of sports medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina.See a doctor if: You experience pain, swelling, or locking, or if your symptoms limit your activity in sports or exercise, says Geier. Knee pain could stem from a torn meniscus, and ankle pain could be arthritis or damaged tendons.
2. Growling, gurgling, or rumbling stomach That's your gut wringing itself out. Between meals, your gastrointestinal tract goes through a series of intense, often noisy contractions every couple of hours to sweep out leftover debris, says William Chey, MD, co-editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Gastroenterology. But growls don't signal snack time, says Chey: Unless you're hungry, hold off until dinner.See a doctor if: Your turbulent gut is accompanied by pain and swelling, especially if you hear sloshing when you press on your belly.
3. Habitual snoring at night That noise is soft tissue of your mouth and throat vibrating as you breathe. Nasal sprays and strips help, but losing weight is better, says Stacey Ishman, MD, MPH, an otolaryngology professor at Johns Hopkins University.See a doctor if: You catch yourself gasping at night, wake up in a sweat, or feel sleepy during the day. You could have sleep apnea, which hinders airflow and raises your risk of diabetes and stroke.
4. Clicking and popping jawbone If the noise is loud and sharp, your temporomandibular joint—the hinge and/or cartilage of your upper and lower jaw—may be out of alignment. But this is not necessarily a problem, says James Van Ess, MD, DDS, an assistant professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the Mayo Clinic.See a doctor if: Your jaw locks or won't open or close all the way. And if you're a nighttime jaw clencher, look into a mouth guard or splint to limit further jaw stress, which could lead to joint deterioration and pain.
5. Soft whistle coming through your nose The cause is air moving through a too-narrow space in your nose, says Ishman. You're probably just stuffed up. Blowing your nose should help, but if it doesn't, just wait until the sniffles subside, or try nasal saline rinses or a nasal steroid spray.See a doctor if: The whistling starts immediately after an injury. A right hook to the face or a vigorous bout of nose picking can cause a perforated septum—a hole in the wall between nasal passages—possibly requiring surgery, says Ishman.
6. Buzzing, humming, or ringing in your ears Soft ringing or buzzing that begins and ends quickly is known as tinnitus. But it's really in your head; your brain misinterprets spurious electrical signals as noise, says Samuel Selesnick, MD, vice chairman of otolaryngology at Weill Cornell Medical College. The trigger may be inner-ear damage, so use earplugs around loud noises.See a doctor if: Your tinnitus is continuous and only in one ear. This could signal an infection or inner-ear disorder. Still, the majority of cases have no cause, so there is often no cure, Selesnick says
7. Your heart beating in your ears This is known as pulsatile tinnitus. Either your ears have heightened sensitivity to sounds, or something's making your blood flow louder than usual, says David J. Eisenman, MD, associate professor in the department of otorhinolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.See a doctor if: You have this condition. If a blood flow problem is to blame, it could be serious. "The most common causes of abnormal sound production arise from abnormalities in the very large veins that bring blood from the brain back down to the heart and which happen to pass right through the ear," says Eisenman.
8. Clicking in your throatThis can be a sign of neurological diseases that affect muscle control, such as Parkinson's Disease. In other cases, the click can be caused by excess thyroid cartilage that a doctor can remove surgically.See a doctor if: Your throat clicks when you swallow. However, because this symptom is rare, many otolaryngologists won't have experience treating it, says Marshall Smith, MD, a professor of otolaryngology at the University of Utah School of Medicine. In that case, "a specialty voice clinic (usually at academic medical centers) would likely have the most experienced specialists to diagnose this problem," says Smith.
9. A loud bang as you fall asleep or wake up This condition is known as exploding head syndrome. People say the noises sound like violent explosions, electric currents, clapping, fireworks, lightning and more, according to a study review published in Sleep Medicine Reviews. Exploding head syndrome is disturbing and scary, but it's harmless.So why does it happen? One theory is that something misfires in your brain-stem as you fall asleep. "You have to go through a series of steps to shut down your body for sleep, and the brainstem is involved in that," says Brian Sharpless, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Washington State University. It shuts down your motor neurons (involved in movement), visual neurons (involved in sight), and auditory neurons (involved in sound). "What we think happens, and I think this is a good theory, is that that gets out of whack, and instead of shutting down, your auditory neurons fire all at once," says Sharpless. That brings on the noise.See a doctor if: You experience exploding head syndrome.
10. Clicking or popping in your shoulder If it's painless, then the sound is likely harmless. If somebody's shoulder clicks as they're rotating it without significant pain, it is often coming from some roughness between the rotator cuff and overlying bursa and acromion. That's a normal part of aging. However, pain could indicate tendinitis, bursitis, or a tear in the rotator cuff or labrum. See a doctor if: The sounds are accompanied by an ache. "If someone starts to develop pain in the shoulder with these symptoms, then rehabilitation for the rotator cuff will be helpful," says O'Kane. "That rehab should involve exercises for the scapula (shoulder blade), exercises for the rotator cuff, and stretching for the posterior capsule of the shoulder."