What is Pulsatile Tinnitus?
Do you experience a constant ringing or buzzing sound in your ears? If so, you’re probably experiencing tinnitus. While every individual tends to experience tinnitus uniquely, this hearing condition most often manifests as a slight ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking, or pulsing sound in the ears. What makes this hearing condition so frustrating is that these “phantom noises” can only be heard by the individual suffering from tinnitus.
If you’re constantly hearing a thumping or pulse-like sound from inside your body, you may be experiencing a rare form of tinnitus called pulsatile tinnitus. Unlike other forms of this hearing condition, pulsatile tinnitus is generally caused by blood circulation issues. Here, we take a closer look at this specific type of tinnitus and learn about the common causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options for pulsatile tinnitus.
WHAT IS PULSATILE TINNITUS?
Also known as rhythmic, vascular, or post-synchronous tinnitus, this rarer form of the hearing condition is generally caused by a blood vessel or blood pressure issue. What differentiates this form of tinnitus is that there is a physical cause for the sound and what the individual is actually hearing is an amplification of their own blood circulating.
COMMON CAUSES OF PULSATILE TINNITUS
Like all forms of this hearing condition, pulsatile tinnitus is not a disease in and of itself, but rather, a symptom of an underlying condition. Tinnitus can be caused by a broad range of conditions, such as exposure to loud noises, Meniere’s disease, Lyme disease, or even age-related hearing loss.
Pulsatile tinnitus is one of the easiest forms of tinnitus for doctors to identify and diagnose because, more often than not, the sound is coming from a physical source within the body. Here are some of the most common causes of pulsatile tinnitus:
1. High blood pressure.
Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure is a common cause of pulsatile tinnitus. According to the World Health Organization, (WHO), over a billion people suffer from high blood pressure throughout the world.
When cholesterol builds up in your arteries, it turns to plaque and hardens. This forces blood to flow through a narrower pathway, and thus, increases pressure. This pressure can develop into pulsatile tinnitus.
Developing a tumor in the head or neck can press against blood vessels, increasing pressure and leading to pulsatile tinnitus.
This is a medical condition that occurs when your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to circulate oxygen throughout your body. While this condition often makes individuals unusually weak and tired, it can also lead to hearing issues.
PULSATILE TINNITUS SYMPTOMS
Like other forms of tinnitus, the most common symptom of this hearing condition is the constant noise in your ears that no one else can hear. Sometimes the sound may only occur in one ear, and depending on the individual, may range in severity. For some people, pulsatile tinnitus is only a minor annoyance. For others, however, it may become so distracting and agonizing that it makes your daily life a challenge.
Some individuals with pulsatile tinnitus also suffer from idiopathic intracranial hypertension, which is an often unexplained increase in pressure in the skull around the brain. Individuals with this condition may also experience headaches, vision problems, dizzy spells, and hearing loss in addition to their tinnitus symptoms.
CAN TINNITUS BE CURED?
Currently, there is no cure for tinnitus. But that doesn’t mean individuals must live day to day with this hearing condition without hope. While there is no medical cure, doctors and audiologists have developed treatment plans to help patients better cope and live with their tinnitus symptoms. These treatment options range from white noise machines, hearing aids, counseling sessions, or even advanced Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), which helps you cope with tinnitus symptoms on a conscious and unconscious level.
HOW DO YOU DIAGNOSE PULSATILE TINNITUS?
In order to know if you have pulsatile tinnitus, you should first schedule a hearing test with a doctor or audiologist. These medical exams include a few steps and generally begin with a review of your medical and hearing health. An audiologist will then listen to your chest, neck, and head to see if they can hear the tinnitus symptoms. If they can, this means you have objective pulsatile tinnitus, which is rarer. If the audiologist can’t hear the sounds, then you have subjective pulsatile tinnitus.
Next, your audiologist will perform hearing tests on both ears to check for any signs of hearing loss, which, to the surprise of many, does not actually cause tinnitus. If necessary, they may then even request imaging tests, such as an MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound.
What makes pulsatile tinnitus unique is that a doctor may also test you for high blood pressure or refer you to a cardiologist to test for possible circulation issues. This is an important step because pulsatile tinnitus can be caused by blood flow or blood vessel issues.
HOW CAN YOU TREAT PULSATILE TINNITUS?
If you believe you have pulsatile tinnitus, you should schedule an appointment with an audiologist to receive a comprehensive diagnosis. However, there are also steps and lifestyle changes you can make to help reduce the symptoms of this hearing condition. Since pulsatile tinnitus is commonly caused by blood pressure issues, lowering your blood pressure through regular exercise, a healthy low-sodium diet, and managing your stress can all be beneficial. Additionally, cutting down or completely quitting habits like smoking or drinking alcohol can also be effective.
CONCLUSION – WHAT IS PULSATILE TINNITUS?
Millions of people around the world live with tinnitus. While the symptoms range in severity, this hearing condition can make a major impact on some individual’s lives. That constant ringing (or pulsing) in your ears can negatively impact your career, hurt relationships, and make communication frustrating—and at times—impossible.
While there is no cure, there are various tinnitus treatments available for individuals with the different forms of this hearing condition, including pulsatile tinnitus. If you believe you’re suffering from pulsatile tinnitus (or any other hearing condition) schedule an appointment with an audiologist. These professionals can help you by diagnosing your hearing condition and then designing a treatment plan that specifically fits your needs.