Pulsatile Tinnitus: Causes, Treatments

You may have experienced at one point in your life when you thought you were hearing a shrill or whistle coming from within your head (some may say they can hear a heartbeat in the ear). This sound may have occurred during a stressful situation, when thirsty, or just happened without reason at all. This condition is called tinnitus, a relatively harmless event that may be a cause of an underlying problem within the body.

So What Is Pulsatile Tinnitus?

Of all patients suffering from tinnitus, approximately one out of five persons, 3% of these have a slightly different kind of tinnitus called pulsatile tinnitus. In this case, they can hear a pulsating beat similar to the rhythm of the heartbeat other than the usual shrill or whistle. Many are mistakenly led to believe that pulsatile tinnitus is the heartbeat itself. Though it may be significantly related to the cardiac beat, it is the amplified vibration of disturbed blood flow in the blood vessels in the head and neck area. Due to its proximity to the hearing system, the irregular flow may be heard (These were my exact symptoms but I also had to deal with vertigo).


We’re told the most common cause of pulsatile tinnitus is age-related. As we grow older, the functions of the auditory complex may see some wearing and tearing. Those who are way past 60 years old have a higher chance of having this condition. For the duration of anyone’s life, even the changes in the bones of the ears may cause an imbalance and result in this. Also, compacted earwax in the ear canal may cause a shift in the pressure and balance, not to mention infection, which is also one of the most common causes.

Atherosclerosis of the carotid vessels also contributes to some cases of pulsatile tinnitus. Because of their nature of clogging up the afflicted blood vessels, blood flow is erratic and internal pressure is increased. This often occurs with patients who are also suffering from hypertension, diabetes, and other cardiovascular-related diseases. Medication and corrective lifestyle usually alleviate this condition.

Infections of the ear also lead to middle ear effusion which is a known cause of pulsatile tinnitus. This occurs as the middle ear is filled with fluid due to infection of opportunistic bacteria. The Eustachian tube becomes clogged up and may require medication or surgery in the worst cases.

Other probable causes of pulsatile tinnitus include twisted arteries in the head and neck, thyroid problems, intracranial vascular lesions, and weakened blood vessels, and glomus tumor. All these have the same effect of causing blood flow to travel freely under normal pressure because of a clogged up path.


Having pulsatile tinnitus may not be considered life-threatening, but it does pose a possible threat to your health with a variety of underlying concerns. In any case, the hearing is outright affected, as people get to hear a pulse-like ringing or thumping similar to the heartbeat.

Treating and handling pulsatile tinnitus involves one or more of the following: medication, surgery, alternative medicine, and lifestyle modification.  Here is the run-down of the different methods in helping patients deal and cope with this situation.

  • One of the first things a doctor would do after determining that the problem is indeed pulsatile tinnitus is to address the anxiety of the patient and perform primary measures which could lower the noise being heard.  Lorazepam and other similar drugs which lower the mood anxiety are prescribed for monitoring.  Other drugs such as Meclizine may be prescribed if you start having Vertigo from the Tinnitus (be prepared to be dog tired it taking this drug as the side effects include severe drowsiness).
  • Another method which is generally addressed by physicians is to counterbalance the incessant sound with “white noise”.  This continuous sound helps tone down the beat-like sound.  Even if it is still noise in the most basic sense, this is more manageable as told by patients.  White noise may be delivered via electronic devices either inserted into the ear canal or by machines that produce continuous rhythmic sounds.  Pillowcases with embedded speakers playing soft rain or ocean waves offer good white noise therapy during the night.
  • Lifestyle and home remedies are included in the overall treatment regimen,  especially for those cases where pulsatile tinnitus is already a permanent condition.  These lifestyle adjustments help people afflicted with this condition cope better and with fewer distractions and anxiety.  As a general rule, one of the basic rules to practice is to stay away from loud noises, banging and thumping sounds, and similar types which could aggravate the already existing pulse-like pattern heard from within.  Thomas Coleman, a tinnitus expert covers many different natural remedies that can be applied from home and often provide much more success than the pharmaceutical drugs that often make matters worse due to the nasty side effects.
  • For diet, lowering of high cholesterol intake and alcohol helps a lot in a way that blood pressure is kept at an optimal level.  Since many cases of pulsatile tinnitus are caused by blood vessel complications, keeping it in a normal state lessens the sound heard.  MENSA society dedicates a good portion of their time identifying what’s considered “Good foods” & “Bad foods” in Sonus Complete and in many cases, individuals begin to see positive changes in their conditions.

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Treating pulsatile tinnitus is a continuous and step by step method of testing and checking possible reasons why it is happening. It sometimes becomes a process of elimination in terms of lifestyle changes…but don’t lose hope because thousands of folks have made huge strides in managing it to a point where it doesn’t rule your life.

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