Pulsatile tinnitus is characterized by a rhythmical sound strikingly resembling a heartbeat. It is important to note that tinnitus is a condition in which an individual perceives a sound in the ear such as a ringing or whistle-like sound.
When it comes to pulsatile tinnitus, it is easy to identify than the other forms as well as its cause. Most individuals might experience pulsatile tinnitus or a beating sound of the heart in both ears or only in one ear. The individual experiences the beating sound of the heart in the ear while lying down or sleeping on one side.
What are the possible causes?
Pulsatile tinnitus is typically triggered by an evident change in the flow of blood to the vessels close to the ears. Some of the vessels that are affected include the large arteries and veins in the neck and base of the skull as well as the smaller vessels in the ear itself. This disruption in the blood flow can be caused by various factors such as:
- Generalized increase in the blood flow – this is due to engaging in strenuous activities or during pregnancy. The blood flow is also increased among those with medical conditions such as an overactive thyroid or anemia.
- Localized increase in the blood flow – in some cases, the flow of blood is faster in a single vessel.
- Turbulent blood flow – this occurs if the interior part of the blood vessels is disrupted which causes turbulence in the blood flow, thus resulting to the sound of pulsatile tinnitus.
- Altered awareness – if an individual has a perforated eardrum, he/she hears more sounds from inside the body since the external hearing is impaired.
The other possible causes of pulsatile tinnitus include idiopathic intracranial hypertension that includes frequent headaches and visual issues along with pulsatile tinnitus.
The treatment for pulsatile tinnitus is based on the underlying cause. If due to anemia, regular blood transfusions and medications is required. In case the cause is a perforated eardrum, the perforation should be sealed using grafts.
If the cause is turbulent blood flow due to the hardening of the arteries, the treatment involves repair of the narrowed and hardened arteries so that the blood flow is restored.