How To Fix A Noisy CPAP Mask – Popping, Gurgling And Whistling Noises


According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, more than 25% of all adults aged 30 to 70 years suffers from sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder managed with Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) therapy. However, during use a CPAP’s mask may begin to make gurgling, popping, or whistling noises. You may be experiencing this but are unsure why or how to resolve it.

A CPAP mask can produce popping, gurgling or whistling sounds. Popping is caused by a blocked hose or dirty components, whereas CPAP rainout, incorrect humidifier settings, leaking air or a loose mask creates a gurgling noise. A whistling CPAP mask is the result of a poorly fitted mask, poor hose connection, incorrect water level in the humidifier, or an old hose.

This article will take you through the reasons why your CPAP mask could be making popping, gurgling, or whistling noises, how to diagnose each cause, and step to step instructions on how to fix each issue.

Reasons why your CPAP mask is making a popping, gurgling or whistling noise

Popping noise

1.  Blocked hose

The most common cause of a CPAP making a popping noise is the hose being blocked with water. Condensation is to blame here.

While humidification might improve your comfort when using the CPAP machine, it can also generate condensation in your hose and water in your mask, resulting in popping noises.

Diagnosis:

  • Nasal congestion.
  • Sore throat.
  • Nose bleeding.
  • The hose looks cloudy.

How to fix it:

  • Use a heated tube.
  • Check the humidifier settings as they help you to be comfortable. To handle any drying or rainout difficulties, start with a humidity level of 3 and adjust up or down by 0.5. But first consult your doctor.

2. Dirty components

A CPAP mask can also make a popping sound because of dirt or a failure to replace CPAP supplies such as the mask, filter, the hose, and head gear on a regular basis. Small whistles, gurgling air pockets, and strange popping noises can all be caused by worn or dirty components.

It’s critical to replace your CPAP supplies on a frequent basis as part of your therapy. It’s required for hygiene, ensuring that everything functions properly, and preventing annoying noise issues.

Diagnosis:

  • Bad smell during usage.
  • Some parts such as the mask and headgear are loose.
  • Strange noises when inhaling.
  • You still snore even while using it.
  • Mask cushions have lost a spring.
  • Retightening of straps.
  • Your therapy feels less effective.
  • Even after cleaning your CPAP, the cushions are still slippery.

How to fix it:

  • If it’s been 6 months since you replaced your CPAP mask, filter, headgear and tubing, it is time to do it.
  • Remove the machine from dusty areas.
  • Creating a cleaning and replacement schedule based on your user manual recommendations.

Gurgling noise

1. CPAP rainout

CPAP rainout occurs when the CPAP tube reaches a humidity level high enough to cause condensation. When water condensation reaches the tubing and the mask, you will hear a gurgling sound if the mask is not correctly fitted leaving you with a damp face.

The temperature in your room must be lower than the airflow in the machine’s heated hose for CPAP rainout to occur.

Moisture can condense when humidity enters an unheated tube due to the temperature difference. Small beads of water can gather and drip onto your face as a result of this, resulting in a CPAP rainout.

Your CPAP mask will make a gurgling noise in response to this condensation in the mask and tubing.

Heat and humidity in the mask and tubes must match the heat and humidity outside the mask and tubes for CPAP to work correctly. Condensation is unavoidable when cold air encounters warm air.

Diagnosis for a CPAP rainout:

  • Waking up to a damp face.
  • Gurgling in the tube.
  • If you are claustrophobic, you may experience anxiety as a result of a CPAP rainout.
  • Stuffy or runny nose.
  • Warm air pressure.

How to fix a CPAP rainout:

  • Using a heated tube or insulating the CPAP tubing with a cloth.
  • Wrapping the CPAP hose to ensure a consistent supply of heated air.
  • Change your room’s temperature (if possible).
  • Adjust the humidifier’s settings.
  • Check that your CPAP machine is not leveled with your mask.
  • Reduce the pressure in your CPAP machine so that it is lower than the pressure in your mask.
  • Adjust the position of the machine by placing it on the floor.

2. Incorrect humidifier settings

One reason for gurgling noises in your CPAP mask is the wrong humidifier settings. Incorrect humidifier settings will result in variable humidity levels, and the gurgling noise.

That is why understanding how to change your CPAP machine settings is crucial. The recommended CPAP pressure for most people is between 6 and 14 cmH2O. Your sleep specialist can help you figure out what level is best for you, and your CPAP device pressure may need to be adjusted over time

It’s critical to make sure your CPAP machine is set to the proper pressure for you so you can breathe all night comfortably. You may have discomfort in your mouth, nose, or airways if your CPAP pressure is too high, making it difficult to fall asleep at night and causing your overall therapy to fail.

Diagnosis for wrong humidifier settings:

  • If you begin to snore while wearing your CPAP machine.
  • Breathing problems during the night.
  • If you have bloating, gas, discomfort, or excessive belching when you wake up.
  • You are experiencing discomfort in your mouth, nose, or airways.
  • If you have aerophagia, which is when you swallow air in a gasp.

How to fix it:

  • Adjust your CPAP equipment settings with the help of your sleep specialist.
  • Seek the advice of a specialist who will monitor your AHI level and recommend the best settings for you.
  • Try an auto set gadget. Take, for example, AirSense.

3. Leaking air

A gurgling sound could also be caused by air leakage. There is a point of contact or seal between the CPAP device and your face.

The most common cause of a seal leak is facial moisture, which causes mask slippage. A variety of causes can exacerbate mask leakage, and Full-face masks are more likely to leak than nasal masks.

If the leaks aren’t fixed, the machine will quickly lose its essence. Air pressure is required to keep the airways open. When there are leaks, the pressure drops, and you can experience a deficit.

A poor fit, dirty mask, and mouth leaks all cause air leakage.

Many individuals try to prevent leaks by tightening the mask, but this isn’t the best way to go. Over-tightening may result in further leaks.

Diagnosis for leaking air:

  • Waking to dry eyes.
  • Waking up with a dry or stuffy nose.
  • A gurgling noise when you breathe in.

How to fix it:

  • Make sure the mask is applied accurately.
  • Consider using a full-face mask.
  • Get new equipment if you haven’t replaced your cushion in the last two months or your head gear in the last six months.
  • Clean your cushion every morning, and replace it every after one month.
  • Tighten your headgear’s straps.
  • Purchase a CPAP cushion cover or mask liners made of cloth.
  • Make an appointment for a mask fitting.

4. Loose mask

A loose mask can cause the gurgling noise in your CPAP mask. It’s incredibly common for CPAP users to get the wrong mask size. That’s because mask sizing varies by brand, and measurement guides frequently don’t specify where to start measuring.

This is especially true if you buy a new mask without first fitting it correctly. Using a too-loose CPAP mask will result in gurgling noises.

If you discover that your mask is leaking excessively, it’s probably time to replace it. Also, if you are uncomfortable with your mask, you should consider trying a different type or having it refitted.

Diagnosis:

  • Keeps slipping off.
  • You notice more frequent leaks.
  • You still snore or experience apnea even while using it.

How to fix it:

  • Tighten the mask’s straps as much as possible without becoming uncomfortable.
  • Get additional CPAP equipment such as a mask liner or CPAP pillows with cut-outs to achieve a better fit.
  • Remove the mask and replace it with a new one.

Whistling noise

1. Mask doesn’t fit right

Whistling noises can emerge from your CPAP mask and machine if the mask does not fit properly. The whistling sound is almost certainly caused by air seeping somewhere between your CPAP machine and your airways. 

If appropriately sized and fitted, no mask should cause pain or discomfort. If you notice redness or sores on your face, you’re likely overtightening your mask. It’s possible that your mask cushion is worn out and needs to be replaced.

If the mask is too loose, you may find yourself waking up without it and having no idea how you got it off. Many take off the mask due to pain or a leak during their sleep, but are not aware of it. This could mean that your mask isn’t the optimum size for your face or that it’s not correctly fitted.

Diagnosis:

  • Irritated skin, sores, and bruises.
  • Mask is too loose or so tight.
  • Leaky mask.
  • Dry eyes from pressurized air blowing into them.
  • CPAP machine makes noise when you inhale.
  • Old face mask.
  • Worn out face mask.

How to fix it:

  • If you discover that the air is leaking, simply take the CPAP mask away from your face and replace it.
  • Move it around until you’re satisfied that it’s properly sealed. It should be well-adjusted to your face’s curves.
  • If the CPAP mask is worn out, replace it.
  • To ensure that your mask does not leak, replace it every 6 months.
  • If you decide to get a new mask, ensure it is the correct size for you. It’s possible that buying and wearing a mask that doesn’t fit you will result in leakage.

2. Hose isn’t connected right

It’s possible that a loosely connected hose to the CPAP machine or mask is causing the whistling noise. The whistling is the sound of air leaking, and the sound will stop if you can stop the leak.

Examine your humidifier’s hose. It’s possible that it’s not set up correctly, and this could result in leaks that make a hissing sound when inhaled. Make sure there aren’t any bandings on the hose. Use a new hose if you wish to avoid bandings, as noise and bandings can obstruct airflow.

Diagnosis:

  • Leaks.
  • Bandings on the hose.
  • Whistling noises when inhaling.

How to fix it:

  • Disconnect and reconnect the hose at both ends to see if you can re-establish the seal and if you can eliminate the whistling.

3. Level of water in the humidifier

Another reason why your CPAP mask is producing a whistling noise is the level of water in the humidifier.

Although, not all CPAP machines come with a humidifier, and others require you to purchase it. For instance, ResMed comes with a humidifier.

If your machine has a humidifier, it can make a lot of noise if it isn’t filled with sufficient water. The water level in a humidifier will decrease over time as it is utilized.

Water levels in your humidifier that are too low or too high can cause your CPAP machine to make noise when you inhale.

You can read all about how much water CPAP machines use and why here.

Diagnosis:

  • Water level is too high or too low.

How to fix it:

  • Maintaining a proper water level in the humidifier (never fill above the maximum line).
  • Keep a close eye on the water level.
  • Check to see if your humidifier’s hose is connected correctly.

4. Hose needs replacement

The CPAP tubing is the source of the majority of whistling issues, as hoses are prone to minor holes from natural wear and tear. Mineral deposits, excess moisture, and daily use all contribute to CPAP hoses breaking down, which is why you must replace them on a regular basis.

Fill your hose halfway with water and plug both ends to see whether it has any holes. If there are any holes, water will leak out. Sometimes, if you do not clean your CPAP hose regularly, it can become damaged. 

Cleaning your hose gives you an opportunity to examine it for tears and cracks clearly; and know when exactly to replace it.

Diagnosis:

  • Waking up to a dry mouth or sore throat means it’s leaking and needs replacement.
  • Discoloration of the hose.
  • If you perceive a bad smell while using the CPAP machine.
  • You should replace your CPAP hose if you have not replaced it in the past three months.

How to fix it:

  • To replace your CPAP hose, you will need to remove the older one by pulling it out from your CPAP mask.
  • Dispose of it properly.
  • Open your hose from its packaging.
  • Because CPAP tubes/hoses come in two different forms, a rubber and a plastic one at the point of connection between the hose and the mask, double-check that it fits into the CPAP mask.
  • If the old mask does not fit in the new hose, examine your old hose to find a hard plastic piece that may still be attached to it. 
  • Remove it and use it to fix the new hose on the mask.
  • You can now slowly fix the hose on the mask.

5. The CPAP machine is too old.

An old CPAP mask and machine can cause a whistling noise.

Over time, your CPAP mask will begin to break down due to everyday use. The cushion will degrade with time, micro-tears appear on silicone parts and your headgear and frame will stretch.

The whistling could also be caused by the model and age of your CPAP machine itself.

Every 3-7 years, it’s a good idea to replace the actual CPAP device. While a CPAP device’s typical lifespan is 5-7 years, technological advancements will occur. Older models were louder, but the new ones are quieter.

For instance, DreamStation Auto CPAP machine is the quietest CPAP machine while Dreamstation go CPAP is one of the loudest CPAP machines.

Diagnosis:

  • Wear and tear.
  • Has become uncontrollably noisy.
  • An old model.

Solutions:

  • Purchase a new CPAP machine.

Why does my CPAP mask make noise when I inhale?

A CPAP mask makes noise when you inhale if there is a detected leak, the airways are dry, it is poorly fitted, or the inner and outer cushions layers on the CPAP mask have become misaligned.

To fix this, try adjusting your mask with the headgear straps first, and if it doesn’t work, you may need a replacement cushion in a different size.

Do CPAP mask liners help with leaks?

CPAP mask liners are an ideal option for reducing leaks. CPAP mask liners maintain a strong seal by covering any gaps between the cushion and your skin, as well as wicking away sweat and body oil, which can obstruct a good seal.

CPAP mask liners absorb moisture and help keep your CPAP mask in place throughout the night. When making a purchase, make sure to get a mask liner that’s relevant to your CPAP mask’s brand and model.

How do you put a liner on a CPAP mask?

Place your liner directly on top of the mask cushion, lean forward to face downward, and place your nose and mouth into the lower half of the liner’s hole. Hold your mask against your face as you return your head to a normal, upright position, and adjust the straps and headgear to a comfortable fit.

There are three different types of CPAP masks; full face masks, nasal masks, and nasal pillow masks. Full face masks cover your nose and mouth, while nasal masks merely cover your nose, and nasal pillow masks are smaller than nasal masks but still provide a high level of openness and visibility.

How do I get a better seal on my CPAP mask?

To get a better seal on your CPAP mask, set the air pressure settings to the recommended levels, clean and replace your CPAP equipment parts as required, replace your head mask gear from time to time, run a mask seal test, and change the mask.

Failure to clean or replace your CPAP mask as required, not setting it right, and not changing the head gear from time to time will prevent your CPAP Mask from providing you with a proper seal.

Russell Singleton

Russell holds a Bachelor of Science (Environmental and Marine Geoscience) with Class I Honors. He is currently completing his doctorate in science and is passionate about all earth processes, especially isotope geochemistry and paleohydrology.

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