Have you ever heard of “ear rumbling?” If not, it’s okay. You’re not alone. Only a small number of the human population is capable of creating noises inside their own ears. In fact, some people are able to do this, and they just don’t know it. So, what is this all about? Is this some kind of special superpower? We bet by the end of this article, you’ll test it out to see if you also have this special trait.
So, What Is Ear Rumbling?
Let’s be honest: Most people don’t know too much about their ears. After all, we can’t see inside them. We don’t know what they look like inside, so we aren’t too familiar with how they function.
In the middle ear, you will find the tensor tympani—a small muscle located above the auditory tube. The muscle has a very important role in our hearing. When you hear a sound, your eardrum naturally vibrates. This sound is then transferred to a series of bones—the malleus, incus, and stapes—that transmit the sound waves to the inner ear.
The more you know, right? But most people aren’t able to contract the tensor tympani voluntarily. However, for those who can, they have a special skill: the action produces a low, thunder-like rumbling sound in their ears. When they make their ears “rumble,” it sounds like it’s thundering inside their head. Can you even imagine what that would be like?
But this isn’t a new discovery. Physiologist Johannes Müller discovered the sensation and documented it—describing it as “sound being produced by the voluntary contraction of this muscle”—in his 1842 text, Elements of Physiology Volume 2. However, since 1842, the quirky trait has been forgotten about—until now.
An Alarming Tweet
Everyone was just minding their own business when, in February 2020, a Twitter user (@Rainmaker1973) shared the news about the unusual trait on his page. The user, known as Massimo, specializes in astronomy, astronautics, meteorology, and physics. He frequently tweets about science-related topics, so this was a fitting tweet for his social media presence.
He tweeted a graphic image of the inside of the human ear, labeling the different muscles. His caption read: “A part of the human population can voluntarily control the tensor tympani, a muscle within the ear. Contracting this muscle produces vibration and sound. The sound is usually described as a rumbling sound.”
The tweet gained some attention, garnering over 5,000 likes. People chimed in with their own comments, expressing how they have the ability to make this rumbling sound. Others said they wanted to try and see if they could make the sound.
An Unknown Superpower
If Massimo was trying to educate people about the “ear rumbling” sensation, he succeeded. People talked about their experiences on Twitter, with some saying they never knew the technical term for their peculiar trait.
For example, the user (@kutieme88) tweeted, “Oh wait. I’m doing this now. I didn’t know what that was, but I’ve always been able to do that. Cool, thanks for this post! I’ve learned something new.” Another user (@cfer2481) said, “I’ve never asked anyone about it because I have no way to explain it. Thank you!! I now know it’s not just me.” Finally, the user (@DownieSeb) responded, “I can do this! Didn’t realize not everyone could. Slightly crap superpower, but I’ll take it!”
Try It Yourself
If you want to find out if you can make this sound, try scrunching your face up tightly while squeezing your eyes shut. We hate to break it to you, but if you can’t hear anything, chances are that you don’t have this natural ability.
However, if you want to simulate the sensation, place your hand over your ear and clench your hands into a fist. You should hear a rumbling noise, with some describing it like thunder. Enjoy your new superpower!
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