Having traditional tinnitus – or a ringing or buzzing sound in your ears – is bad enough, but people who have pulsatile tinnitus suffer even worse. That’s because the sound in their ears is in sync with their heartbeat. So, every time their heart goes “thump,” consequently do their ears!
Note: This page was last updated on Wednesday 3rd of February 2016
And, yes, pulsatile tinnitus can really cause a thumping sound. Instead of the traditional ringing or buzzing, this form of tinnitus causes a rhythmic thumping or whooshing sound. People who have suffered from both types of tinnitus say that the pulsatile variety is far more annoying.
Unfortunately, though, “annoying” isn’t all this problem is. Pulsatile tinnitus can often be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition.
Well, in order to figure that out, you have to find out exactly where the problem is coming from. In most cases, it’s due to one of two things – an increase in blood flow or blood vessels that have shrunk down. In both cases, your blood vessels cannot carry all the blood that they need to. As a result, what should be a simple blood flow process becomes a violent struggle that you can literally hear!
And in some cases, your doctor will be able to hear it, too!
In fact, one of the first things your doctor will do is hold his stethoscope up to your head and neck. If he can hear the thumping and whooshing, you’ll be diagnosed with “objective pulsatile tinnitus.”
If your doctor can’t hear the sound, don’t worry. It doesn’t mean you don’t have a problem. Instead, you’ll be diagnosed with “subjective pulsatile tinnitus.”
The diagnosis itself doesn’t matter much. What does matter is figuring out what’s causing your problem, so that you can find out the best way to treat it.
Since this condition is associated with a change in blood flow, it’s crucial that you and your doctor get to the bottom of it, so that you can determine if you’re at risk for any kind of serious complications. In some cases, this form of tinnitus can be a warning sign for heart attacks and strokes!
One of the first things your doctor will do is give you an MRI, a CT scan, an ultrasound, or even all three, in order to see if the sounds in your ears are coming from any kind of tumor or bone deformity. In some cases, tumors and bones can put pressure on the blood vessels in your head and neck and make it difficult for blood to flow through like it should. The end result is that awful sound!
If a small tumor is to blame, don’t panic. In most cases, your doctor can remove it – and once he does, you’ll never have to deal with these annoying symptoms ever again!
But before you start panicking about tumors, remember that most tumors come with other symptoms, in addition to the sounds in your ears. If you’re not dealing with anything else but noises in your ears, a tumor probably isn’t to blame. However, it’s wise for your doctor to be thorough and check for everything!
So, what if a tumor ISN’T to blame?
Most doctors will opt for tests like MRAs that can take a detailed look inside your blood vessels themselves. That way, they can see if your blood vessels have narrowed or hardened, making it tougher for blood to pass through.
What would cause something like that?
In some cases, lifelong issues – like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and even smoking – can do it. As you get older, your blood vessels have a harder time keeping up with the strain, and they’ll start to shrink down, leaving you with narrower pathways and sounds in your ears.
The good news is that there are a number of medicines on the market that can help alleviate these problems – meaning they can alleviate the sounds in your ears, too.
Are there any “simpler” causes for this condition?
In fact, something as simple as a perforated ear drum can cause these symptoms, because it makes you more sensitive to noise as a whole.
Or, if you’re pregnant, your blood pressure may temporarily go up. Since your blood is rushing through your body faster, it may cause thumping or whooshing sounds in your ears until you give birth. Your doctor can decide if it’s safe for you to go on blood pressure medicine until your baby is born.
In fact, anything that causes your blood pressure to go up – like exercise, stress, and even an overactive thyroid – can lead to pulsatile tinnitus. When you look at it that way, it’s not particularly surprising that more than half of the people diagnosed with this condition also suffer from some kind of vascular problem, like hypertension or aneurysm. In order to diagnose some of these causes, your doctor may have you create a journal so that you can keep track of what triggers your symptoms (or what makes them worse).