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Tinnitus is the medical term for “hearing” noises in the ears that occur when no outside source of the sound is present. Tinnitus is often described by many as “ringing in the ears,” but it can also sound like buzzing, hissing, roaring, or whistling. 

Pulsatile tinnitus is a type of tinnitus that sounds like a rhythmic pulsing in the ear, usually matching in time with the heartbeat. Although tinnitus is a common condition affecting millions of Americans, pulsatile tinnitus is rare. 

Pulsatile tinnitus in one ear only can occur or it can be present in both ears.. Pulsatile tinnitus can be heard by a doctor by pressing a stethoscope against the neck or by placing a tiny microphone inside the ear canal. For some, pulsatile tinnitus may simply be annoying, whereas pulsatile tinnitus can be debilitating for others. Pulsatile tinnitus rarely goes away on its own.

What Causes Pulsatile Tinnitus?

Although “common” tinnitus can be a symptom of almost any ear problem or other health conditions, pulsatile tinnitus usually has a specific, identifiable cause. The causes of pulsatile tinnitus may include problems with blood flow in the head or neck or by brain tumors or abnormalities in brain structure. Pulsatile tinnitus may also be caused by high blood pressure or an overactive thyroid gland. This type of tinnitus is often the first sign there have an underlying condition that needs to be treated.

How is Pulsatile Tinnitus Treated?

Pulsatile tinnitus treatment depends on the underlying cause. Surgery might be needed to improve blood flood or remove a tumor. Medication might be needed to treat high blood pressure or an overactive thyroid gland. However, once the underlying cause is treated, the sound should stop. 

If the sound does not stop, a doctor can work with you to find ways to reduce the severity of the noise and its impact on quality of life, including ways to sleep better. Depending on the severity of the condition, hearing aids may be prescribed, or wearable or tabletop sound generators, or acoustic neural stimulation. Avoiding things that may make tinnitus worse also helps, such as caffeine, alcohol, and smoking. These measure also protect the ears and hearing from further damage. In some instances, counseling or antidepressants and antianxiety medications may be indicated.
If you suspect you have pulsatile tinnitus, Sonora Hearing Care can help. Please contact us today to speak with one of our hearing specialists to discuss your options.