Pulsatile Tinnitus: What You Should Know

Are you experiencing a thumping or whooshing sound in one or both of your ears? Does this sound follow the steady rhythm of your heartbeat? You may be experiencing pulsatile tinnitus. This form of tinnitus may also be called vascular, pulse-synchronous or rhythmic tinnitus.

What is Pulsatile Tinnitus?

According to Medical News Today, “Pulsatile tinnitus is a rhythmical noise that beats at the same rate as the heart and is the sound of blood circulating the body. A person can confirm this by feeling their pulse as they listen to the tinnitus noise.”

Other forms of tinnitus are believed to be caused by a disconnect between sounds your ear hears and how your brain interprets these sounds. In contrast, pulsatile tinnitus is caused by something physical.

Just as with other forms of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus causes you to hear a constant sound that other people cannot hear. In some cases, your general healthcare practitioner may be able to hear the sound using a stethoscope.

Common Causes of Pulsatile Tinnitus

Pulsatile tinnitus is often caused by a specific health problem. The most common causes include: 

    • High blood pressure – High blood pressure can result in changes to your blood flow, which can result in symptoms of pulsatile tinnitus.
    • Irregular blood vessels – This is a common cause of pulsatile tinnitus. When blood flows through damaged blood vessels it can change pressure and noise. In blood vessels close to the ear, you may in some cases hear these changes.
    • Anemia – Anemia can cause your blood to flow loudly and quickly.
    • Overactive thyroid gland – Like anemia, this can cause your blood to flow loudly and quickly.
    • Atherosclerosis – Atherosclerosis is a hardening of your arteries. If your blood vessels are clogged by cholesterol or other fats, they lose their flexibility. This causes blood to move with force – think of water rushing through a narrowing streambed. This will often result in pulsatile tinnitus that you can hear in both of your ears. 
    • Arteriovenous malformation – This is a condition caused by connection problems between your veins and arteries. It typically only affects one ear.
    • Head and neck tumors – Tumors can press on blood vessels, resulting in noise.




Symptoms of Pulsatile Tinnitus

The most noticeable symptom of pulsatile tinnitus is hearing a sound that appears in sync with your pulse or heartbeat. It can affect one or both ears, and vary in severity.

In some cases, symptoms of pulsatile tinnitus can be caused by high pressure in the fluid around your brain. This condition is known as idiopathic intracranial hypertension. Additional symptoms to look out for are:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Problems with your vision
  • Hearing loss

If you experience these symptoms alongside pulsatile tinnitus, we recommend speaking to your general healthcare practitioner.

Treatment Options

As pulsatile tinnitus is often a symptom of an underlying health condition, treatment options generally include treating the underlying condition. If you are experiencing pulsatile tinnitus, please book in an appointment with your general healthcare practitioner. Depending on the causes, treatment could include lifestyle changes or medication.

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