Pulsatile tinnitus, and what causes it?
Pulsatile tinnitus is a pulsing sound in your ear that could signal a major health problem.
Imagine hearing in your ear the rhythmic whoosh of your pulse, pounding in time with your heartbeat. When you experience pulsatile tinnitus, this is exactly what happens.
Tinnitus is a condition that causes ringing, clicking, or other disturbances in one or both ears. According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, pulsatile tinnitus accounts for around 1% of all tinnitus cases.
“While it’s often benign (harmless), it’s more likely to have an identifiable source and could be the first sign of some kind of underlying condition,” says Rebecca Lewis, AuD, audiology director of the Adult & Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program at Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA.
If you experience pulsatile tinnitus, it can be more than an annoyance; it could signal an underlying health concern that requires further investigation. If you hear a repetitive thud in one or both ears, here’s what you should do.
Symptoms of pulsatile tinnitus
The sounds in your ear are in time with your heartbeat, which is a hallmark characteristic of pulsatile tinnitus, according to Lewis.
Hearing your heartbeat while exercising is frequent. “You might hear your heartbeat in your ear, even when you’re just laying down, not exerting yourself.”
There is a distinction between pulsatile tinnitus and ordinary tinnitus.
Doctors might also be able to hear it.
The clicking or ringing of regular tinnitus is classified as a subjective sound, meaning that nothing is truly ringing and others cannot hear it. The sound is deceptive. Pulsatile tinnitus, on the other hand, is considered objective. According to NORD, a sound is occurring in your body, and doctors may be able to hear it.
You might hear your heartbeat if you have pulsatile tinnitus, even if you’re just lying down and not exerting yourself.
According to Northwestern Medicine, the whoosh or thump of your heartbeat in your ear might change based on your position, such as when you turn your head or lie down.
Pulsatile tinnitus, like other varieties of tinnitus, can be annoying or bothersome.
What are the causes of pulsatile tinnitus?
The most important thing about tinnitus is that it isn’t a medical condition. As Lewis points out, tinnitus is “a side effect of something else.” Hearing loss is the most common cause of chronic tinnitus. The following are some of the possible causes of pulsatile tinnitus:
- Abnormal blood vessels, constricted arteries, hardened arteries, and other vascular problems (heart disease is linked to a hearing loss)
- Blood pressure problems
- Syndrome of superior canal dehiscence (an abnormal hole in your inner ear)
- Excess earwax or a ruptured eardrum
- Acoustic neuromas, for example, are tumors.
- Anemia, head trauma, and hyperthyroidism are also linked to pulsatile tinnitus, according to Lewis. Anemia and pregnancy, for example, can cause an increase in the amount of blood your heart pumps, which can cause pulsatile tinnitus.
According to a February 2022 narrative analysis of the issue published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, an underlying cause can be found in 70% of patients with pulsatile tinnitus.
The causes are divided into three categories in this review: structural (such as a tumor), metabolic (such as ototoxic medicines or a spasming muscle in the middle ear), and vascular (such as a stroke) (e.g., carotid artery stenosis, which is when the arteries on the side of your neck get narrower).
There’s also “muscular tinnitus,” which is pulsing tinnitus brought on by muscular issues. People with degenerative diseases like multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are more likely to develop it.
What should you do if this happens to you?
“When someone hears this telltale tinnitus, it’s usually a symptom of a distinct health condition that may or may not be dangerous,” Lewis explains. So don’t ignore it; she suggests seeing an otolaryngologist (often known as an ENT, or ear, nose, and throat specialist).
“It’s preferable just to go in and get an evaluation and not be concerned.” “It’s usually changeable,” Lewis explains.
According to the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center, given the diversity of possible causes, your doctor will take a patient history and evaluate you, as well as obtain imaging (such as an MRI or CT) and possibly request bloodwork.
This could entail multiple doctor visits or referrals.
Options for treatment of pulsatile tinnitus
Your treatment will differ depending on the underlying cause, which will be determined by your health care professional. Treatment for anemia, excessive blood pressure, or an undiscovered thyroid problem, for example, may help relieve symptoms, according to Lewis.
According to Penn Medicine, surgery can help with a blood vascular tissue, tumor, or ear deformity.
The underlying cause is sometimes unknown, or it is related to an irreparable problem, such as hearing loss. The best solution in these circumstances is to manage the tinnitus symptoms. According to Lewis, common ways of doing so include the following:
- Sound therapy can help you get used to tinnitus sounds by using white noise machines, hearing aids with noise generators, or even a fan.
- CBT stands for cognitive behavioral therapy. You will develop strategies to assist you to cope with tinnitus through this sort of therapy. (Tinnitus retraining therapy, which combines CBT with masking devices, is another possibility.)
- Aids to hearing: When tinnitus is combined with hearing loss, hearing aids can be extremely beneficial. They let you hear the sounds you wish to hear (rather than the ringing) and often include masking functions that can assist hide tinnitus sounds.
If you feel a pulse in one or both ears, get medical attention right once. It is curable in the majority of cases.
If you live in Philadelphia or suburbs of the City of Brotherly Love, you can choose holistic treatment at the Philadelphia Holistic Clinic. At the clinic, you will receive all necessary treatments, including acupuncture, homeopathy, hypnosis, reiki, etc. All these services are available at the clinic and performed by licensed health care providers under the strict supervision of medical doctor Victor Tsan.