What Is Pulsatile Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a medical term used to describe a condition in which a patient perceives sound when no external sound is present. This condition affects approximately fifty million people in America, and according to the American Tinnitus Association, approximately sixteen million receive treatment for tinnitus. Although pulsatile tinnitus is experienced by only about three percent of tinnitus sufferers, it is one of the most annoying types of tinnitus. Although this specific type of tinnitus is not as prevalent, it can be quite debilitating.

Patients explain pulsatile tinnitus as hearing a heartbeat in their ear like a whooshing or pounding noise; it differs from tinnitus which may be caused by nerve damage. In some instances, an individual may have both pulsatile tinnitus and continuous tinnitus simultaneously.

Medical statistics indicate that pulsatile tinnitus is more problematic to patients because it is associated with the flow of blood.The common form of tinnitus produces a different sound, more steady.  Whereas, pulsatile tinnitus produces the sounds of a heart beating. Tinnitus is not a hallucination which is a psychiatric symptom associated with conditions like schizophrenia. On the other hand, is a neurological symptom involving the auditory system.

When a patient has been diagnosed with pulsatile tinnitus by a medical professional, the doctor will determine the underlying cause as well as prescribe medication to alleviate some to the symptoms. Often pulsatile is referred to as vascular tinnitus by medical professionals and may possibly represent a severe underlying disease or condition that requires immediate medical attention. These abnormal noises may even be heard by the doctor upon examination with special instruments. Fortunately, tinnitus is usually not life threatening, but pulsatile or unilateral tinnitus may be caused by a potentially more serious underlying condition. Diagnosis requires specialized audiometric testing and imaging studies of the vascular system of the head and neck.

If you can hear your own heartbeat, you may be experiencing this phenomenon called pulsatile tinnitus which can worsen as you age. The blood flow in arteries tends to be more turbulent in older adults because the arterial walls have stiffened due to age. Pulsatile tinnitus may worsen at night because when lying in bed, more blood is reaching your head area and there are few external sounds to block the noise. If you notice this phenomenon, you should consult your physician to determine if it is a sign of a more threatening condition such as blood vessel damage or the signs of a possible tumor. Because the circulatory system is involved, critical complications may be present. Early detection by a trained medical professional and immediate intervention should be your first priority before serious complications occur.