What is pulsatile tinnitus?

Rhythmical beating noise in the ear causes and treatments

Whoosing, whistling, sizzling, beating in the ear ... the list of sounds heard by people with tinnitus is long. To begin with, there are two categories of tinnitus: subjective (audible only by the affected person) and objective (this can be heard by the doctor).

Why do I hear my heart beating in my ear?

Do you ever feel like your head and heart are beating at in time? The occasional perception of one's heartbeat in the ear, better defined as pulsating tinnitus, falls into the category of objective tinnitus. This means the noise you hear is actually produced by a sound source: the passage of blood into blood vessels.

The phenomenon itself is not pathological and can be resolved quickly in some cases by simply changing position. However, its frequent demonstration must lead to more in-depth evaluations. A hearing check, carried out by a specialist, will allow to identify the causes of the rhythmic pulsations and so you can define the most appropriate therapy together to regain your auditory well-being.

Pulsatile tinnitus causes

What seems clear today is that tinnitus is not a disease in itself but a symptom of a disorder that the doctor will have to identify. Although it is impossible to generalize, pulsatile tinnitus (literally pulsation-related) is often due to circulatory problems of vascular or venous origin, also known as arteriovenous malformations. Furthermore, noise pollution, in particular listening to music with earphones, prolonged intake of drugs such as antibiotics and diuretics and any head and neck injuries could favor the onset of rhythmic pulsations.

It can also be explained by either high blood pressure or the presence of cholesterol plaques (in the case of narrowed blood vessels). While these causes are very common, it may also occur as a result of psychological shock or simply a period of significant stress. Anxiety can lead to a reduction of the oxygen supply in the inner ear and create buzzing. The parasitic sound is then detected as an alarm signal by the brain. The close relationship between tinnitus and stress is a vicious circle. And even if they are not dangerous to health, when they are intense and continuous, they can cause insomnia, irritability and concentration disorders.

How to know if you have pulsatile tinnitus

Usually you can tell when your pulse changes, and the tinnitus rhythm follows the same pattern. Another notable symptom is that it is usually unilateral, ie it will be perceived either in the left ear or in the right ear. Pulsatile tinnitus can be easily diagnosed by the doctor through a physical examination of the head and neck, to verify the correct functionality of the nerves in these areas. The doctor will usually notice some form of turbulence in the blood stream in the area of the hearing aid. This is why it is common for tinnitus to be accompanied by vertigo, headache or neck pain. In more serious cases, appropriate diagnostic investigations such as a CT or MRI scan are used to ascertain the origin of the pulse with greater precision.

Pulsatile tinnitus treatments

Apart from the psychological issues, the good news is that this type of tinnitus is treated rather well. First step: cure the cause. By treating hypertension, atherosclerosis, benign intracranial hypertension, hyperthyroidism ... the suppression, or at least the sharp decrease in pulsatile tinnitus will be noted.

But sometimes it's the surgery that will overcome the symptoms. It may be a de-clogging procedure to allow blood flow to re-circulate or embolization to obstruct the blast vessel. In any case, it is strongly recommended to consult an ENT doctor at the onset of long-lasting tinnitus. Only they can identify the origin of the symptoms and cure the causes.

Following the check-up, your specialist will indicate the most appropriate treatments to get your hearing healthy again, bringing with it a better quality of life. Sound enrichment therapy can be useful, allowing to eliminate or significantly reduce the perception of pulsating tinnitus thanks to the use of specific acoustic devices, which produce different masking and relaxation signals through melodies and sounds chosen by the user. In addition to this, adopting a healthy lifestyle and following a regular diet can be of great help. The secret is to choose fruits and vegetables and to introduce foods that contain high amounts of vitamins A, B, E, zinc and magnesium. Finally, ensure you consume coffee, tea and alcohol moderately.

Do you have questions about tinnitus? Do not hesitate to contact your nearest Amplifon centre. Our experts are at your disposal and are happy to advise you for free.

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