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Have you ever thought that you were going mad of hearing a sounds no one else seems to hear? That whooshing or thumping sound might be a sign that you are dealing with tinnitus.

However, if that sound becomes rhythmic or pulsating, you are probably dealing with a rare type of tinnitus known as “Pulsatile Tinnitus”.

This rhythmic thumping sound only can be heard by the sufferer and a medical doctor, who is using a stethoscope. If anyone around you is complaining of hearing things that no one else hears, they might not have a psychotic break; it just might be a case of pulsatile tinnitus.

Definition of Pulsatile Tinnitus

It is a prevalent condition that affects more than 5 million Americans. This form of tinnitus occurs as a result of blood circulation in or around the ear area.

The sounds that pulsatile tinnitus sufferers hear are made from the flow of blood through the arteries. The sound of blood flow, which should be very negligible, is amplified in the sufferer’s ears. 

Also, the nerves don’t help matters as they create a buzzing sound when they pick up on the differences in the signals that are passing through the ear.

The constant rhythmic sound which is consistent with one’s pulse can go from distracting to impairing in a short time. Coupled with a probable buzzing sound, people with pulsatile tinnitus find it hard to carry on with their daily activities.

It is because the symptoms of this ailment can become maddening within a short time. Most people that deal with this form of tinnitus also suffer from depression and anxiety.

Symptoms of Pulsatile Tinnitus

The main symptom is sound. People with this type of tinnitus at first realize that they have a problem when they begin to hear sounds that no one else can hear.

This rhythmic thumping sound matches the beat of their pulse. Other symptoms may include light-headed feeling, and heart palpitations or sudden chest pains that can escalate to a heart attack.

Causes of Pulsatile Tinnitus

Several things could be the cause of Pulsatile Tinnitus. However, the most common causes have to do with blood circulation in the body. 

1. Convulsive Blood Flow

One can have a less than smooth circulation of blood if they develop narrowed carotid arteries and veins or a narrowed jugular.

This condition causes a hitch in the movement of blood, and when your ears pick up on this hitch, you develop pulsatile tinnitus.

2. High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is one of the common causes of pulsatile tinnitus. When your blood pressure is high, it increases the pressure of blood flow in your arteries, around and away from your ears.

You could develop pulsatile tinnitus when your ears can detect this rise in pressure in the arteries near your neck and ear.

3. Abnormal Capillaries

Capillaries are little blood vessels that connect the arteries to the veins. If your capillaries develop any form of abnormality, you could have pulsatile tinnitus symptoms.

4. Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is a medical condition where fat and waste materials clog a sufferer’s arteries. This reduces the pathway for blood flow and increases the pressure of blood flow.

Also, this can escalate to pulsatile tinnitus characterized by pulsating thumps in one or both ears.

5. Tumour in the Head or Neck Region

Tumours that develop in the head or neck region can press on the vein, carotid arteries, or the jugular. This can cause pulsatile tinnitus symptoms.

Nurse standing and watching strait to the camera with her hand on her stomach

Source: Unsplash


Once you suspect that you might have this type of tinnitus, make a quick appointment with your doctor. When you make your complaint, the doctor would ask you some vital questions that have to do with your symptoms. They would also want to know about your medical history. 

After asking you all the essential questions, your doctor would most likely listen to your chest, your neck, and your head with a stethoscope. Depending on your doctor’s ability to hear the pulsating sound you are hearing, your doctor will diagnose you with subjective or objective pulsatile tinnitus. 

1. Subjective Pulsatile Tinnitus

You’ll be diagnosed with subjective pulsatile tinnitus if your doctor is unable to hear the pulsating sound when he listens with the stethoscope.

2. Objective Pulsatile Tinnitus

You have objective pulsatile tinnitus if your doctor with a stethoscope can hear the same pulsating sounds you hear.

After listening to your chest, your doctor might make you go through some hearing, blood, and imaging tests. 

The hearing tests are to determine the hearing loss in one ear or both, while the imaging test is for clarity. You would be directed to undergo a blood test to ascertain if you have anaemia or high blood pressure.

You would also go for any of the following imaging tests:

  • Angiography
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound

After these tests, if you have pulsatile tinnitus, your doctor would direct you to a cardiologist.


This type of tinnitus is treated by treating the root problem, which could be a blood circulation problem. 

Causes of this type of tinnitus can be managed by changing your lifestyle. All it takes is for the patient to live a healthy lifestyle and keep their blood pressures at normal rates for the pulsating sound to stop. 

For people who don’t have such an easy solution, sound therapy is another treatment option for them. This involves using background noise to distract them from the pulsating sound and to make them less sensitive to it. 

This can be a very debilitating condition; however, it is advisable to get a diagnosis and seek treatment as soon as possible.