Breath sounds heard while breathing in (inhalation), or when a doctor uses a stethoscope to hear more subtle lung noises, means you have a respiratory disease. The most common sound is a crackling noise: This is called "rales" or "crackles."
When crackles come from the base of the lung, the basal area, they are known as basal crackles. Bilateral basal crackles are crackles in both lungs. Crackles are clicking, rattling or cracking noises.
Crackles are described as fine or coarse. Fine crackles are soft, high-pitched and brief. They can indicate pulmonary fibrosis or congestive heart failure. Coarse crackles last longer and are much louder. Their presence indicates a disease of the lungs such as bronchiectasis, which causes destruction and widening of the airways.
Crackles can be heard in patients with diseases like pneumonia, bronchitis and pulmonary oedema, a build-up of water in the air sacs of the lungs caused by congestive heart failure. While these diseases sound serious, they can be treated. Chest X-rays, CAT scans and pulmonary function tests are among the methods doctors use to further diagnose basal lung problems.