Are the sounds rhythmic and pulsating?
When your heart pumps, do you hear a “whoose” or “thump” in your ears?
If yes, you will want to read on to find out more about Pulsatile Tinnitus.
What Is Pulsatile Tinnitus?
Pulsatile tinnitus is a rare type of tinnitus that has a rhythmic pulsating noise that has the same rate as your heartbeat.
It is often heard as a “whoosing” or “thumping” sound and could be heard in one or both ears.
If you have been reading up on tinnitus, you would have realized that Pulsatile Tinnitus is often distinguished from other types of non-pulsating tinnitus. Do you know why?
How Is Pulsatile Tinnitus Different From Other Types of Tinnitus?
The chances of identifying a specific cause are much higher for pulsatile tinnitus compared to other forms of non-pulsatile tinnitus.
Often, it is a symptom of a potentially dangerous medical condition with no implications to the ear. In rare cases, it may even be a symptom that eventually leads to stroke.
The diagnosis and treatment of such pulsatile tinnitus is therefore different from other forms of tinnitus.
Hence, it is an important subgroup of tinnitus condition that warrants detailed attention.
Of course, there are also cases whereby the cause of the pulsatile tinnitus cannot be identified.
What Causes Pulsatile Tinnitus?
The causes of pulsatile tinnitus include a change in blood flow in the vessels near the ear, such as the large arteries and veins in the neck and base of the skull and smaller vessels in the ear, or a change in awareness of that blood flow.
Increased blood flow can be attributed to a variety of factors:
- A generalized increased in blood flow is noisier than usual. This can occur during vigorous exercise or pregnancy, or caused by medical conditions such as severe anemia and hyperthyroidism or thyrotoxicosis.
- Sometimes, the increased in blood flow only occur in a single vessel or a group of blood vessels. For example, increase blood flow in or adjacent to middle ear structures, such as the stapedial artery, can lead to pulsatile tinnitus.
- Tumors in the head and neck
- Blood flow can be turbulent when the inside of a blood vessel becomes irregular and rough due to atherosclerosis. This is often led by conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or even prolonged smoking.
An increased awareness of the blood flow can be due to:
- Perforated ear drums losing masking effects hence the person becomes more aware of the sounds inside the body
- Increased sensitivity and malfunctioning of the auditory pathways, much like the case of non-pulsatile tinnitus
How To Identify and Diagnose Pulsatile Tinnitus?
For the diagnosis of pulsatile tinnitus, the doctor will need to pay more attention to your eardrums and the blood vessels of the neck. Your doctor will be using a stethoscope to listen to the neck and skull.
The condition will be referred to as objective pulsatile tinnitus if he can hear a pulsatile noise through the stethoscope.
If nothing can be heard, it will be referred to as subjective pulsatile tinnitus.
In addition to the usual hearing tests performed to patients of all forms of tinnitus, you will also need to undergo some forms of medical imaging such as Computerized tomography (CT) Scan and Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to check for any tumors or bone deformity that is affecting the blood flow in the vessels.
A modern ultrasound scanning method, known as Doppler is also used to image the blood flow within vessels. Other imaging techniques to obtain images of the inside of blood vessels include Computerized tomographic angiography (CTA), Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) and Angiography.
In some cases, you may also be required to perform some blood test to rule out anemia or carry out the Thyroid Function Test to investigate the activity of your thyroid gland.
Find Out More…
Hopefully, this article has helped you to better understand pulsatile tinnitus.
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