July 4, 2022

Pulsatile tinnitus – when you can hear your pulse – Healthy Hearing

Imagine hearing the rhythmic whoosh of your pulse in your ear, beating in sync with your heartbeat. This is what happens when you have what’s known as pulsatile tinnitus. 

It’s a rare form of tinnitus, which is typically characterized by ringing, clicking, or other noises in one or both ears. Pulsatile tinnitus accounts for about 1 percent of all tinnitus cases, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). 

“While it’s often benign (not ha…….

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Imagine hearing the rhythmic whoosh of your pulse in your ear, beating in sync with your heartbeat. This is what happens when you have what’s known as pulsatile tinnitus. 

It’s a rare form of tinnitus, which is typically characterized by ringing, clicking, or other noises in one or both ears. Pulsatile tinnitus accounts for about 1 percent of all tinnitus cases, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). 

“While it’s often benign (not harmful), it’s more likely to have an identifiable source, and may 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 have pulsatile tinnitus, it can be more than a nuisance—it can indicate an underlying health problem that merits follow-up. Here’s what you need to know if you experience a rhythmic thump in one or both ears.

Pulsatile tinnitus symptoms 

The trademark symptom of pulsatile tinnitus is when the sounds in your ear are in sync with your heartbeat, Lewis says. 

Hearing your heartbeat when you exercise is common, she notes. But with pulsatile tinnitus, “you might hear your heartbeat in your ear, even when you’re just laying down, not exerting yourself,” Lewis says. 

There’s a difference between standard tinnitus and pulsatile tinnitus. 

Doctors may be able to hear it, too

When you hear the clicking or ringing of ordinary tinnitus, it’s characterized as a subjective sound—nothing is actually ringing, and others are unable to hear the sound. The sound is illusory. In contrast, pulsatile tinnitus is characterized as objective. That is, a sound is occurring in your body, and doctors may be able to hear it, according to NORD. 

With pulsatile tinnitus, you might hear your heartbeat in your ear, even when you’re just laying down, not exerting yourself.

The whoosh or thump of your heartbeat in your ear may change depending on your position, such as when you turn your head or lie down, according to Northwestern Medicine. 

As with other types of tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus can be disruptive or merely irritating. 

What causes it? 

The important thing to remember about tinnitus is that it’s not a diagnosis. That is, tinnitus is “a side effect of something else,” Lewis notes. With regular tinnitus, hearing loss is the most common culprit. Some potential underlying conditions that cause pulsatile tinnitus are: