Over 50 million of the individuals in the United States experience tinnitus, and some of these individuals experience pulsatile tinnitus. Tinnitus is characterized by ear noises that can only be heard by the individual.
Pulsatile tinnitus (also known as vascular tinnitus) is rhythmic pulsing that is often synced with the beat of the heart. Of those experiencing tinnitus, 3% have pulsatile tinnitus.
Pulsatile tinnitus is not considered to be a disease. It is symptom of an underlying health or medical condition that should be looked at by a physician. When the blood flow is disturbed in your head or the neck region, it can cause pulsatile tinnitus.
Pulsatile tinnitus usually is from the blood vessels inside the head or neck. When there is more blood flowing through the body or if the opening of blood vessels narrow, it contributes to turbulent blood flow which causes pulsatile tinnitus. This tinnitus is different from continuous tinnitus, which is the result of a damaged hearing nerve or cochlea.
Pulsatile tinnitus can be differentiated from continuous tinnitus by its characteristic pulsing, rhythmic, and repetitive nature. On the other hand, continuous tinnitus is characterized by noises that can be heard in the ear that are not rhythmic or pulsing. However, some people may experience both pulsatile and continuous tinnitus at the same time. Often, those who experience both find that pulsatile tinnitus is more irritable and can even cause pain.
It is important to note that not everyone hears the same noises. Many will most likely hear a ringing noise in your ear that will beat rhythmically with your heart, but this is not the case for everyone. The noise your hear may either be a low-pitched booming or thumping or a higher pitched clicking. Noises can be quiet and hardly noticeable or even a loud disruptive repetitive sound.
Those who experience loud repetitive sounds may find that their pulsatile tinnitus interferes with their day to day life. Sometimes, the noises you hear may be correlated with your respiration. Many individuals also hear buzzing, humming noises, the sounds of running water, crackling, chirping, or even a roaring sound. The rate of the repetitive noises can be rapid, from 60-200 beats per minute!
It is important to not overlook the rhythmic sounds. Often, pulsatile tinnitus is one of the symptoms of an underlying medical or health condition and it should be looked at by a physician.