Hearing a Heartbeat in Your Ear? It Could Be Pulsatile Tinnitus

03/29/2023 | Hearing loss, Patient Resources, Tinnitus

Some of us experience the strange sensation that we can hear a heartbeat in our ear. It’s odd and can be pretty concerning if it occurs regularly.

But don’t worry; you’re not alone.

What you’re experiencing could be pulsatile tinnitus, a condition that affects thousands of people. Most of the local people in La Grande that I’ve helped with pulsatile tinnitus experience it in one ear only, but occasionally it manifests in both.

In this blog post, I want to share some essential information about how it manifests, explain why it occurs, and suggest treatment options for pulsatile tinnitus—so you or your loved one can find relief.

As La Grande’s local hearing care and audiology experts, my team and I are here to help you learn what to do if you can hear a heartbeat in your ear and advise you with the best next steps.

What Are the Symptoms of Pulsatile Tinnitus?

Pulsatile tinnitus is a form of tinnitus where you can hear your heartbeat in your ear, often in sync with your pulse. This differs from regular tinnitus, which is characterized by a constant ringing or buzzing sound.

Nearly 50 million Americans have experienced some form of tinnitus, and approximately 1.5 million are currently dealing with pulsatile tinnitus (source: CDC).

Some common symptoms of pulsatile tinnitus include:

  • Hearing a heartbeat in your ear
  • A pulsing or thumping sound in one ear only
  • High pressure or a feeling of stuffiness in the affected ear
  • Changes in the intensity or pitch of the sound depending on body position or head movement

What Causes Pulsatile Tinnitus?

You might be hearing a heartbeat in your ear for several reasons. Pulsatile tinnitus can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:

Changes in blood flow: Narrowing of blood vessels, high blood pressure, or an increase in blood volume can lead to pulsatile tinnitus in one ear only or both ears.

Structural abnormalities: Irregularities in blood vessels or shifting of the bones inside or next to the ear can be the reason you are hearing a heartbeat in the ear.

Tumors or growths: In rare cases, pulsatile tinnitus may indicate a benign or malignant growth in the head or neck area.

It is important to seek medical attention if you are experiencing pulsatile tinnitus to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.

Ignoring pulsatile tinnitus or delaying its diagnosis and treatment may lead to further complications and health issues.

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What Steps Should You Take If You Have Pulsatile Tinnitus?

Schedule an appointment with one of our Audiology and Hearing Aid Associates experts.

We’ll talk through your symptoms, help identify the cause of your pulsatile tinnitus, and recommend appropriate treatment options.

Keeping a symptom journal is also crucial. Track when you experience pulsatile tinnitus, how long it lasts, and any potential triggers. This information can be helpful for your audiologist.

Are There Treatment Options for Pulsatile Tinnitus?

The most holistic treatment is to manage your stress and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

By reducing stress, getting regular exercise, and eating a balanced diet, you can improve your overall health and alleviate your symptoms.

There are several effective treatments for pulsatile tinnitus, which affects about 3% of tinnitus sufferers (source: American Tinnitus Association).

If you suspect you’re experiencing pulsatile tinnitus, taking action is essential. Delays can allow symptoms to become worse, resulting in treatment complications later.

Depending on the cause, your audiologist or ENT specialist may recommend one or more of the following:

  1. Medications: Certain medications can help to manage the underlying cause of pulsatile tinnitus, such as high blood pressure or anemia.
  2. Surgery: In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to correct an obstruction or structural abnormalities or remove tumors.
  3. Lifestyle changes: Implementing relaxation techniques, avoiding loud noise exposure, and addressing any sleep issues can help reduce the severity of pulsatile tinnitus. Learning to use techniques to help manage tinnitus can be a game changer.
  4. Sound therapy: External sounds can mask the pulsatile tinnitus or promote habituation. This treatment is an effective way to help you become less aware of the noise.
  5. Hearing aid masking: Masking can help people suffering from pulsatile tinnitus in one ear only. It should only be used when incorporated into a guided tinnitus management plan under the care of a licensed provider of tinnitus management. Sound generators can worsen symptoms if misused, so working with a proper care provider is vital.

We’re Experts in Tinnitus

If you hear a heartbeat, you may be experiencing pulsatile tinnitus.

While this condition can be distressing, it’s important to remember that treatments are available, and actions can be taken to manage the symptoms.

However, you can only get a proper diagnosis and begin the journey toward relief by consulting an audiologist or ENT specialist.

If you’re experiencing pulsatile tinnitus symptoms or hearing a heartbeat in your ear, Audiology and Hearing Aids Associates can help. Reach out to our dedicated staff of caring professionals to find out more.

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Erika Shakespeare CCC-A

Erika Shakespeare, CCC-A, specializes in pediatric and adult diagnostics and amplification. Working with adults to help manage tinnitus and hearing loss since 2002, she is an expert in both of these areas. Additionally, she is a pediatric audiology mentor and educator for pediatric audiologists across the country and is one of the most respected experts on pediatric audiology.

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