Pulsatile Tinnitus is defined by the perception of some kind of noise in the ear as accompanying the heart beat and hence, the pulse. In other words, a persistent sound that beats in time with your pulse.
A quick and sure-fire way to check for Pulsatile Tinnitus is to simply check your pulse whilst listening to the beat of your tinnitus. If the two match up then you have Pulsatile Tinnitus. Simple!
This tinnitus variant is a little different in so far as there is a physical source. The source of the cause is the blood flow in the head area. Specifically, the changing of blood flow in arteries or veins near to or in the ears.
In order to get rid of it, you’re first going to need the right diagnosis and resulting treatment.
Causes Of Pulsatile Tinnitus
As we said, Pulsatile Tinnitus is a result of the ears “hearing” blood flow. And, specifically, changes in blood flow in blood vessels near to the ears. It’s never that simple though. There are actually a number of differing specific causes.
Generalised Increased Blood Flow
This is usually completely normal and due to situations or activities which naturally stimulate a general increase in blood flow throughout the body. These triggers could include pregnancy, excitement, exertion or exercise amongst others and for example. Anything that you’s associate with “getting the heart pumping”!
This still needs to be checked as certain medical conditions can also be the cause of the general increase in blood flow. Conditions such as anaemia or thyroid problems for example.
When the blood flow is increased it makes more noise and it’s this that results in the pulsating sounds associated with this condition.
Localised Increased Blood Flow
If the increase in blood flow is localised to the head area it is likely caused by abnormal blood vessels which have developed or are developing as a result of a localised medical condition. This needs checking out too as it could be resulting from a tumour (most often benign though), some form of head or neck trauma or blood vessel birth defect.
There’s also a specific condition known also to result in Pulsatile Tinnitus amongst its symptoms. That condition is called benign or idiopathic intracranial hypertension which results in high pressure in the space around the brain and spinal chord which in turn increases the localised blood flow.
Turbulent Blood Flow
Any hardening of or damage to the arteries creates an uneven blood vessel. This in turn results in an irregular or “turbulent” blood flow which is obviously going to be louder than the normal smooth flow.
There is an alternative cause of Pulsatile Tinnitus which is not caused by a change in blood flow. Instead it’s caused by an increased awareness of the sounds of normal blood flow. For a variety of medical conditions it’s possible to become more sensitive to and aware of normal blood flow noise. The brain would usually ignore these sounds but any heightened awareness equals Pulsatile Tinnitus!
These medical causes are usually related to hearing or ear conditions. Conditions such as a perforated eardrum, some form of ear infection, a retention of fluid in the ear, glue ear or such like.
Diagnosis Of Pulsatile Tinnitus
It’s important that you always check out Pulsatile Tinnitus to establish the cause and enable effective treatment. Diagnosis is usually not too difficult and starts with questions to build up an accurate case history, an internal examination of the ear canal and drum and a check of the pulsating sounds around the head and neck using a basic stethoscope. The stethoscope test will establish if the Pulsatile Tinnitus is subjective (can’t be heard) or objective (real and can actually be heard).
A hearing test may also be carried out.
In many cases these tests will be all that’s needed but any further concerns and the patient will be referred for medical imaging using an MRI or CT scan to check for any blood vessel abnormalities.
Pulsatile Tinnitus Treatment
This very much depends on the cause of the condition. Any medical condition will be specifically treated and is completely dependent on the condition.
If no specific medical condition can be diagnosed as the cause then it’s going to be a question of establishing the optimum tinnitus management program such as:
- Sound Therapy.
- Relaxation Therapy.
- Hypnosis Therapy.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
- Tinnitus Counselling.
- Tinnitus Retraining Therapy.
Pulsatile Tinnitus – Important
As briefly and (hopefully) simply explained above the causes of Pulsatile Tinnitus are pretty wide ranging. They can often be as a result of a specific medical issue. Effective treatment is obviously and completely dependent on the specific and diagnosed cause. For these reasons it’s absolutely vital that you get checked out by a medical professional.