Pulsatile tinnitus is characterized by rhythmic noise in the ear, which often tunes with the heartbeat. It is not a very serious medical condition, which when treated correctly will help cure the symptoms effectively.
Hearing sounds of one’s own pulse, referred to as pulsatile tinnitus, is an annoying medical condition that disturbs the well-being of an individual. Present either in one or both the ears, a person with tinnitus perceives sounds when no external sources of sound are actually present. In pulsatile tinnitus, the noise is regular and coincides with the heartbeat of the patient. The symptoms may be mild to severe, acute or chronic lasting for several days to months. According to medical data, about 6 percent of the global population have a severe form of tinnitus.
In majority of the patients, pulsatile tinnitus is caused due to unusual coupling of fluids in any of the blood vessels that are associated with the eardrum. The noise of increased blood flow in the arteries and veins, which are located near the inner ear is conducted to the ear, resulting in various symptoms. In addition, people diagnosed with anemia, high blood pressure (hypertension) and hyperthyroidism manifest pulsatile tinnitus as a referred symptom.
Very rarely will pulsatile tinnitus (as a symptom) point towards life-threatening conditions, like vascular tumors in the middle ear, chronic middle ear infection, hardening of the arterial walls, and increased pressure in the head, a condition called hydrocephalus. To be more precise, its causes are more or less related to circulatory problems, especially in the head and neck portions. Vasculitis or idiopathic intracranial hypertension may also be other indications of pulsatile tinnitus. You might be required to conduct several medical tests, as the cause is a little difficult to diagnose.
In this case, the unusual noise perceived by the patient is more rhythmic and regular than the symptoms of other tinnitus types. The most noticeable sign of pulsatile tinnitus is a constant whooshing sound experienced in the ears, which often accompanies the heartbeat of the patient. The sound may be similar to a low-pitched booming or high-pitched snapping. Some patients do report blowing noise that tunes with respiration. Other symptoms are headache, dizziness, sleep disorders, and depression.
The whooshing noise present in pulsatile tinnitus can be heard by doctors and other people with the help of an appropriate device. This is the reason why, it is also known as objective tinnitus. Other forms of tinnitus, in which only the patient hears the sound, while other people cannot, is called subjective tinnitus. Initially, the doctor will conduct a physical examination of the head and neck. The nerves in these areas will be checked. Following this, an audiogram (hearing test) will be conducted, and depending on the type of tinnitus, the physician may perform computed tomography (CT) scanning and magnetic resonance angiography (MRA).
In some cases, spinal tap is also done to check the fluid pressure in the skull and most importantly, the spinal cord. To rule out the possibility of thyroid problems (overactive gland), you may be asked to do a Thyroid Function Test (TFT), while a Full Blood Count (FBC) may be required to check for anemia.
Pulsatile tinnitus is treated with respect to its specific cause. So if the cause may be anemia, it can be treated with medication or blood transfusion. Similarly, causes, such as perforations can be closed by grafts, glue ear can be treated with grommets, etc. Patients who are unable to show abnormalities can be treated with standard methods, like Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), sound and relaxation therapy, and other alternative measures.
Though it is rarely serious, with multidisciplinary treatments, complete recovery is generally achieved by most of the patients. Applying gentle pressure over the area, from where the sound comes, will lessen the sound intensity. As a part of the treatment, the doctor may also recommend regular physical activities and a good diet to improve blood circulation and lead a healthy life.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in anyway attempt to replace the advice offered by a medical professional on the subject.