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Hearing whooshing sound or constant thumping and heartbeat in your ear making it difficult to think, eat, sleep, and more? Read on to get answers to several questions you must have.
Why Can I Hear My Heartbeat in My Ear
If you are one of the many people who hear a ringing, clicking, or throbbing sound in any one or both ears, you might wonder why can I hear my heartbeat in my ears, well the answer lies below.
1. What is this Condition Known As?
The sounds you hear are in sync with your heartbeat and are caused by blood circulation, near or in your ears. Unlike other tinnitus, Pulsatile tinnitus is just an amplified sound of blood circulation. The sound you hear is due to nerves picking abnormal signals from your ears to your brain.
Pulsatile tinnitus is a rare form of tinnitus. According to the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), it’s a symptom that approximately 3-5 million Americans suffer from.
Pulsatile tinnitus isn’t harmful and is a symptom to identify any underlying issue that might be a problem if ignored. The underlying issues can be of many kinds such as vascular diseases. Pulsatile tinnitus can be cured by identifying the underlying issue and curing it.
1.1 How Does it Affect You?
Not harmful in itself, Pulsatile tinnitus affects your ability to sleep or do concentrating activities. It is in cases of low to no background noise that you can become aware of the noise and it irritates you.
In some cases, it can develop into anxiety as well. It is mainly caused by underlying issues that you might not be aware of, so get in touch with your doctor regarding this condition and cure the underlying cause.
1.2 When to be Concerned?
Although, the irritating noise in your ears usually doesn’t last long but, if you experience such an issue and there’s an unexplained change in your body, contact your doctor immediately.
If the sound in your ears affects your daily activities like studying, working, walking, sleeping or seeing immensely, it is enough reason to seek help.
2. Pulsatile Tinnitus Symptoms
If you’re hearing a sound in your ear which is in sync with your heartbeat, it is Pulsatile tinnitus. The sound in the ears increases or decreases according to the heartbeat and the sound shouldn’t be exerted from your side that is through running or exercising.
You can identify the symptom easily at night as there are fewer external sounds then and you can hear the sound in your ears which is why pulsatile tinnitus patients find it difficult to sleep.
Some other symptoms can also be heart palpitations or feeling lightheadedness.
3. Causes of Pulsatile Tinnitus
When you seek help regarding- why you can hear your heartbeat in your ear, the doctors can help and find the underlying issues that cause it. Some common causes are:
When there’s a plaque (which is usually a collection of cholesterol or fats or any other waste) in your arteries and it hardens, the blood flow in the body is obstructed partially or less.
This leads to uneven blood flow which causes more noise than the smooth flow of blood and this issue, especially in areas near the neck, ears or your head, you hear the sound of pulsatile tinnitus in one or both of your ears.
3.2 Blood Vessel Disorders and Malformations
Why can I hear my heartbeat in my ear? Well, the most common reason is any blood vessel disorder or malformation in your arteries. They cause changes in your blood flow, some disorders related to it can be aneurysms or arteriovenous.
3.3 Ear Abnormalities
There are many ear abnormalities such as:
In your inner ear, there is vestibular apparatus which has three canals. The superior semicircular canal is one of those and patients with semicircular canal dehiscence syndrome can get pulsatile tinnitus.
In this abnormality, a part of the temporal bone which is overlying the superior semicircular canal is either missing or is very thin.
Thin or missing bones overlying arteries and veins near your ear can also cause hearing of a thumping or whooshing sound in the ears.
3.4 High Blood Pressure
With high blood pressure or hypertension, the blood flow through your carotid artery- a neck artery that gets narrowed, also increases and the force of blood leads to a sound that is easily detectable by one or both ears.
3.5 Head and Neck Tumors
Tumours are one of the many causes of people experiencing pulsatile tinnitus. Glomus tumours can grow in your middle ear or brain and when they press on your blood vessels it can lead to a whooshing sound.
Glomus tumours are vascular if, in the head or neck, they are benign and form from glomus cells. They are commonly formed in the jugular vein which is below your middle ears.
3.6 Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension
The increase of cerebrospinal fluid around the brain causes pressure on blood vessels. The symptoms of idiopathic intracranial hypertension are double vision, headache, pain in the eyes or Pulsatile tinnitus.
3.7 Sinus Wall Abnormalities
Abnormalities like sinus diverticulum and dehiscence can cause high blood pressure and alter its flow within the sigmoid sinus and lead to noise in your ear making you wonder why can I hear my heartbeat in my ear.
The sigmoid sinus is a channel from where the brain receives blood from veins. A diverticulum is a small pouch forming called diverticula. Dehiscence means the absence of bone which surrounds the sigmoid sinus in the mastoid.
Anaemia is a condition where you have fewer RBCs to carry oxygen to tissues. In Anaemia, your blood flow can be altered causing pulsatile tinnitus.
3.9 Arteriovenous Malformations
Arteriovenous malfunctions are tangles of blood vessels. They cause disruption between veins and arteries and overall affect your blood flow and lead to pulsatile tinnitus, especially in cases of malformation near your ears.
3.10 Head Trauma
According to a report from 2021, traumatic brain injuries can lead to ringing in your ears. It also states that in the USA, people of 75 years and more have the highest rate of traumatic brain injuries and hence have more chances of Pulsatile tinnitus.
It is not difficult to know that head trauma or injuries can alter the blood flow and directly impact the veins and arteries causing ear diseases.
It’s a condition where the thyroid gland makes more thyroid hormone than it’s required. It’s also called overactive thyroid and it increases body metabolism.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include rapid or irregular heartbeats which can cause Pulsatile tinnitus.
3.12 Paget’s Disease
It’s a chronic disease of bone. Usually, the new bones remove old bone pieces when remodelling but the disease causes abrupt changes in the remodelling and the new bones to have abnormal shapes and are weak.
In the case of Paget’s disease in the skull, you can have Pulsatile tinnitus1 due to irregular bone shapes that affect veins and arteries near the neck and ears.
3.13 Turbulent Blood Flow
The narrow neck arteries also called carotid arteries and veins or jugular veins can cause blood flow changes and the sound of the irregular circulation can be detected by the ears.
3.14 Abnormal Capillaries
The tiny blood vessels that connect arteries to veins or capillaries can also cause pulsatile tinnitus. Capillary malformations2 are also called port wine stains as the colour of the skin changes.
Some other issues that can cause pulsatile tinnitus are:
1. Ruptured eardrum or excess earwax
2. Abnormal blood vessels,
3. Narrowed or hardened arteries
4. Superior canal dehiscence syndrome (an abnormal hole in your inner ear)
In case you feel any symptoms of Pulsatile tinnitus, you should talk to your healthcare provider and identify the beginning issue. There are numerous treatment options available similar as:
1. Angiography- This test uses contrast materials and X-rays to examine blood vessels.
2. MRA( Magnetic Resonance Angiography)- It checks if there are problems in your neck or head regarding blood vessels.
4. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)- Images are used to check your tissues in the neck and ears.
5. CT Scan (Computerized Tomography Scan)- It’s used to get a 3D image of the neck and head.
6. HRCT(High Resolution Computed Tomography Scan)-Detailed pictures of your blood vessels and other parts of the neck or head are used. It’s effective to identify any sinus wall abnormality.
7. CTA-Motorized Tomography Angiography
8. Temporal bone CT Scan
The underlying cause of Pulsatile tinnitus is to be known before applying any treatment. With the cause being known, there has been a high rate of treatment of this ear condition. If there is no underlying issue, the condition can be prevented by various other methods:
1. Sound Therapy- Sound generator devices produce sounds that mask the continuous heart beating and help you concentrate better. It is also known as white noise. You can also use any external sound machine to take your mind off the regular noise in your ear.
2. Lifestyle modifications- include habits like low sodium diets, exercising, no tobacco and reducing stress.
4. Tinnitus Retraining Therapy
6. Relaxing methods
6. Last Words
Conclusively, if you were able to read toward the end of the article without any difficulty in concentrating or with no pain or thumping in the ear, then you might not have this condition, but it’s still better to get checked.
Pulsatile tinnitus is a curable disease and easily detectable. You should not take the issue lightly as it merely indicates an underlying condition, especially if it’s obstructing your daily activities.
Once, the underlying health problem is known, it can be treated effectively and help prevent other chronic disorders so next time if you or any known of yours wonders why can I hear my heartbeat in my ear, suggest they seek help immediately.
7. Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can anxiety cause you to hear your heartbeat in your ears?
2. What is the most common cause of pulsatile tinnitus?
“Benign intracranial hypertension” also referred to as pseudotumor cerebri syndrome and the most prevalent vascular cause of pulsatile tinnitus, is distinguished by elevated intracranial pressure5.
3. Can pulsatile tinnitus cause a stroke?
Blindness or stroke 6may occur if it is caused by a serious problem with the blocked circulation of blood in the head or neck and is left unchecked.
Stay safe and healthy!
- Narsinh, Kazim H., et al. “Diagnostic approach to pulsatile tinnitus: a narrative review.” JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery (2022). ↩︎
- Valdivielso‐Ramos, Marta, et al. “Capillary malformation− arteriovenous malformation syndrome: a multicentre study.” Clinical and Experimental Dermatology 46.2 (2021): 300-305. ↩︎
- Santomauro, Damian F., et al. “Global prevalence and burden of depressive and anxiety disorders in 204 countries and territories in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The Lancet 398.10312 (2021): 1700-1712. ↩︎
- Elias, Gavin JB, et al. “Probing the circuitry of panic with deep brain stimulation: connectomic analysis and review of the literature.” Brain Stimulation 13.1 (2020): 10-14. ↩︎
- Evensen, Karen Brastad, and Per Kristian Eide. “Measuring intracranial pressure by invasive, less invasive or non-invasive means: limitations and avenues for improvement.” Fluids and Barriers of the CNS 17.1 (2020): 1-33. ↩︎
- Murphy, Stephen JX, and David J. Werring. “Stroke: causes and clinical features.” Medicine 48.9 (2020): 561-566. ↩︎