It’s happened to all of us at some point or another, you’re sitting in a quiet room with friends and our body makes a gurgling or whistling noise…or worse.
Not only can these unexpected noises be a bit embarrassing, but they can also be signs your body is telling you something. Here’s five noises we commonly hear from ourselves (and others) that might mean more than what we think they do, and point to a health issue. But don’t worry too much, everyone has some… hiccups along the way…
1. Rumbling Stomach
We commonly associate grumbling and gurgling from the stomach region to being hungry, which is a common cause of the strange sound. Research from Scientific American points out that the lower intestines can also cause this same noise, which is louder when they are empty because there’s nothing in there to muffle it.
The same source notes that low blood sugar can enhance stomach grumbling—low blood sugar can be dangerous and lead to abnormal body functions such as blurred vision, headaches and even increased anxiety. Lower blood sugar can also intensify abdominal contractions that cause the sound, which can be painful. Get some nutritious food into that stomach, stat!
Hiccups are yet to have a reliable cure, but luckily in most cases they go away as quickly as they appeared. While everyone gets hiccups once in a while, they are mainly a source of annoyance (and other people’s amusement) more than anything.
However, the Mayo Clinic points out that prolonged cases of hiccups can actually be a sign of a central nervous system disorder. Those disorders that can trigger hiccups range from meningitis to Multiple Sclerosis, according to the clinic. Long-lasting hiccups can also be a symptom of drinking too much alcohol, developing diabetes, or recovering from anesthesia.
3. Cracking and Popping Joints
Sometimes we hear a snap, crackle or pop when we stand up or after being in a certain position for a long time. The joint noises normally aren’t painful, but they can be somewhat loud and concerning.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says that joint noises can actually be a warning sign of osteoporosis, or weakening of the bones. If you’re feeling any discomfort associated with the joint noises, you should consult your doctor so they can assess any creaks, clicks or even grinding—it could be a sign that cartilage, which pads the joints, is deteriorating from disease or other causes.
4. Whistling Nose
We’re not likely to ever be able to whistle Dixie through our nasal passages, nor would most of us want to. However, certain conditions can cause an audible whistling noise from our nose as we breathe in and out, which can be causes by a sinus blockage or something more serious.
The Greater Baltimore Medical Centre (GBMC) says that a whistling noise when breathing through the nose can be a sign of a perforated septum, which divides your nasal cavity into two chambers. A damaged septum has a variety of causes including injury or drug use, and in some cases the only solution is surgery. Take special note of whistling noises from babies, as newborns only breathe through their nose and not their mouth.
5. Irregular Cough
Coughing is as old as humanity, so when we hear a cough we generally don’t give it a second thought. But what if you (or someone else) notice that your cough sounds strange? It could be nothing of concern, but it’s probably not a good idea to completely ignore it.
An audible “whoop” sound after an attack of coughing is probably exactly what it sounds like—whooping cough. The Mayo Clinic claims that although there’s treatments to prevent it, it’s still dangerous to babies too young to be vaccinated. A dry cough that sounds like a saw can actually be a symptom of asthma, a respiratory condition that makes it hard to breathe. The American Lung Association says a dry cough can also be a sign of pneumonia, which can be serious if untreated.