What lung sounds can COPD cause?

What lung sounds can COPD cause?

Medically reviewed by Adithya Cattamanchi, M.D., Pulmonology — Written by Lindsey Todd on May 13, 2021




Healthy breathing sounds



Other COPD symptoms

Contacting a doctor


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of lung conditions that cause breathing-related difficulties. It can give rise to several different lung sounds.

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COPD can cause a variety of different lung sounds, including rhonchi, wheezing, and crackling.

This article will discuss the types of lung sounds that can occur alongside COPD. It will also look at how healthy breathing sounds and how doctors diagnose COPD.


The National Heart, Lung, and Blood InstituteTrusted Source notes that COPD can cause a wheezing sound when a person breathes. Wheezing sounds occur due to the vibrationsTrusted Source of the narrowed walls of small airways.

COPD causes the small airways to narrow, resulting in whistling sounds as air attempts to travel through the narrow passages during exhalation.

When wheezing is present in the lungs, it manifests as a high pitched whistling sound during expiration.


CracklingTrusted Source, otherwise known as rales, describes a sound in the lungs that resembles a crackling or clicking sound when a person breathes in. According to one 2021 study, crackling sounds are common in COPD.

There are two distinct types of crackling sounds detectable in the lungs: coarse and fine.

Coarse crackles are more typical of COPD and present as prolonged, low pitched sounds. Fine crackles are more high pitched.

The crackling noise stems from air bubbles passing through fluid, such as mucus, in the airways. Coughing occurs as a biological reaction to clear this fluid.