Did You Know That Some People Can Create a Rumbling Sound in Their Ears?

Voluntary Control of the Tensor Tympani

Photo: Stock Photos from Voyagerix/Shutterstock

Once again, Twitter is proving to be a great source of interesting facts about science. The latest talking point centers around the tensor tympani, a muscle in the ear that has a big impact on what we hear. Used to dampen sounds like claps of thunder or shouting or chewing, this muscle reduces the volume when things get too loud. But did you know that some people can actually flex this muscle voluntarily?

People were intrigued when Twitter user Massimo posted this fun fact. When contracted, the tensor tympani causes a rumbling sound in the ear. While most people aren't capable of doing this voluntarily, there are some who have the skill to tense the muscle at will. In fact, nearly 70,000 people belong to the Ear Rumblers Assemble Reddit, where stories are traded about this special ability.

If you're feeling left out, don't worry. Many people experience the rumble when yawning or when their jaw or neck is tensed. Or, you can try to replicate the experience by holding a tensed muscle, such as a clenched fist, against your ear. Interestingly, as often happens, both those who can and cannot control their tensor tympani are often shocked when they discover that not everyone experiences what they do.

Many people who experience the rumbling were also delighted for the explanation. Though the phenomenon has been known since at least 1884, many had no idea why they experienced an internal thunderstorm. And you? What side of the storm do you fall on?

Twitter is abuzz with users intrigued by the idea that its possible to control an inner ear muscle that helps dampen loud noises.

People enjoyed sharing their own experiences creating this rumble on command.

h/t: [IFL Science!]

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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