Imagine you are presenting a motivational speech to your sales force and you can’t stop hiccupping, or you’re on that first date and you lean in for a kiss and a big burp escapes from your mouth! Still worse, what if you are a celebrity like Whoopi Goldberg whose microphone captured the sound of her passing gas on “The View?” Celebs are not immune from strange sounds our bodies make at the most inopportune times and neither are you. Here’s why these noises occur and what to do if they are chronic as explained by Dr. Niket Sonpal who is both an internist and gastroenterologist in New York City.
“Hiccups are an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm and other muscles that see air coming in and striking the voice box,” explains Dr. Sonpal. Less than a second after your vocal cords close shut creating the hiccup sound and the air remains in the diaphragm. Some causes are thought to be eating too quickly or excessively, an irritation of the stomach or throat brought about by indigestion. Hyperventilation and conditions of the respiratory system like the lungs and more.
Not to be alarmed, most cases of the hiccups are just temporary and can be treated with home remedies like holding your breath for a few seconds or drinking water.
2. Jaw Clicking
Our jaw is connected to the skull by the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). The TMJ is made up of ligaments and tissue among other things and a disc that sometimes changes shape especially if stretched too much. In some cases, people will suffer from TMJ Dysfunction which will cause pain and cracking noises. This condition is an umbrella term for wear and tear of the temporomandibular joint and in extreme cases, if the bone or disc in the area become concave, patients may have difficulty fully closing their mouth.
What to do? Seek an oral health expert like a dentist or oral surgeon if the cracks get sharper and louder, if you cannot close your mouth completely and/or if you are having bothersome pain and lockjaw.
Burping or belching are two words to describe the noise our body makes when we expel gas from our upper digestive system out through our mouth. This happens because there is an excess of air and gas that often doesn’t even get to the stomach before we belch it out. Burping is harmless and happens as a natural result of swallowing air while drinking, eating or talking. Drinking carbonated soft drinks and smoking can give you more urges to belch.
What to do? Take your time when eating or drinking. Avoid sugary carbonated drinks. They release carbon dioxide gas. Treat Heartburn symptoms with proper over the counter medication like antacid chewables. Gastroesophageal reflux disease may cause burping but the belching is usually accompanied by clearer signals of that particular disease like acidic heartburn, nausea followed by sour liquid regurgitation among other things. If your symptoms are that extreme visit your doctor or gastroenterologist for prescription strength medication.
4. Whistling in your nose
This is nothing to be alarmed about. Mucus accumulates in the nasal cavity and then hardens as we breathe through our nose. “This is what scientists refer to as, boogers,” quips Dr. Sonpal. If the hardened mucus circles your nasal cavity only leaving a small narrow space for the passage of air, then it creates the whistling effect much like our lips create a narrow space for air to flow through when whistling through our mouth.
What to do? If the whistling is accompanied by cold or FLU symptoms, then a decongestant will help. If you are suffering from allergies, an antihistamine is best. If your only discomfort comes from the hardened mucus, use a saline spray to moisten the discharge before implementing cotton swab to clean your nasal cavity ones the matter is soft and won’t cause bleeding when removed.
5. Ringing in your ears
If you are experiencing ringing in one or both of your ears you probably are dealing with tinnitus. This condition is caused by infections, aging and general degeneration of the eardrum and loud noises that damage cells in the inner ear. This effect causes the “cochlea to send signals to your brain, regardless of there being high pitched ringing or not.” says Dr. Sonpal.
What to do? If phantom sounds linger for two days or more and are paired with pain, or loss of balance, see your general doctor or an otolaryngologist in order to make sure you aren’t suffering infection or hearing loss.
6. Stomach Rumbling
Burbling sounds in your digestive tract after dinner is not uncommon. Food recently ingested is being moved around along with liquid and air swallowed. As food digests, gases begin to fill the intestine until flatulence helps them exit the body. Conversely, if you are hearing your empty stomach grumble, Dr. Sonpal explains some of the science behind that, “your empty gut is clearing out leftover food and fluids and soon it will be time to replenish your body with a meal,” he says.
What to do? In some cases, if you are going through high pitched grumbling accompanied by pain or nausea, but no bowel movement, going to your doctor would be a good idea. These are symptoms of issues in the GI tract and could signal partial bowel obstruction.
7. Passing Gas
“The science is pretty clear for this one,” chuckles Dr. Sonpal. The body produces intestinal gas as the enzymes in our digestive system breakdown what we have ingested. Once this gas is inside the body, it needs to be released somehow. It is usually expelled through the anus as flatulence or out of the mouth as a burp.
Some intestinal gas comes from the air that people swallow when they are eating, chewing gum, drinking through a straw, or smoking. Undigested carbohydrates are a common cause of gas because the intestines can’t break that food down. The leftover carbohydrates move into the large intestine, where your intestinal bacteria breaks them down, resulting in intestinal gas.
What to do? “Flatulence is not a bad thing. It is actually the mechanism by which our body relieves itself from excess gas. Passing gas is a key component of digestion and aids in reducing the feeling of being bloated,” explains Dr. Sonpal. What you need to observe is the frequency, circumstances and accompanying factors of your flatulence says the New York Gastroenterologist. If you have frequent flatulence or if you notice that certain foods make you violently gassy and your gas is paired with pain or discomfort you should talk to your doctor to rule out things like Celiac disease, lactose intolerance or any form of irritable bowel disease.
8. Vaginal Queefing
This sound occurs when a pocket of air is pressed out of the vagina. Air can easily gather in the vagina when the opening closes during physical activities like exercising, dancing, getting a pelvic exam, and commonly during intimacy. Many women feel embarrassed by the occurrence of queefing but it is not something abnormal.
What to do? Some exercises, like Kegels, strengthen the pelvic floor and may help in reducing the frequency with which air gets trapped in the vagina.
If your vaginal flatulence coincides with bad smells, increased urinary urges discharges, or pain then seek the attention of a doctor for a more in-depth checkup.
9. Joints Popping
Our joints have fluid that helps reduce friction in our between bone and cartilage during movement. This is called Synovial Fluid and as we exercise or move to sit or stand or walk the movement causes bubbles to form out of this liquid and when these bubbles pop we hear a cracking sound.
What to do? Most often, this noise is not a sign of a bad problem “but like many things in this list if it comes paired with pain or locking of the joint this may call for a doctor’s visit as these issues could make you unstable and cause falls, which are dangerous for older generations,” explains Dr. Sonpal.
In late middle age or once we’ve reached senior citizen status if you are experiencing these sort of noises with discomfort or a grinding sensation in the joint you may ask your doctor about osteoarthritis.
About the Expert: Dr. Niket Sonpal
Dr. Niket Sonpal is Adjunct Assistant Professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, Clinical instructor at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, Brooklyn and on the board of the NY‐ American College of Physicians (NYACP). He is completing his Fellowship in Gastroenterology at Lenox and has spoken and presented at over 25 national and regional conferences on his research and is a regular participant in national courses.