3 Possible Pulsatile Tinnitus Causes

pulsatile tinnitus sounds like a heartbeat in your ears

Do you hear thumping or ringing which oscillates like your heartbeat? Do you hear a continuous pulsing noise in your ear(s)?

Here are three possible causes to pulsatile tinnitus. These conditions are heartbeat synchronous (arterial) pulsatile tinnitus.

1. Glomus tumor:  Benign lesions that may grow in the middle ear space from the jugular vein.  An (asymmetrical) conductive hearing loss and pulsating tinnitus may present clinically.  In addition, a rosy bulge may be visible upon otoscopic evaluation.

2.  Carotid-cavernous Arteriovenous fistula:  A faulty connection formed between the vein and artery that restricts the normal flow of oxygen-enriched blood.  Treatment involves endovascular surgeries or less common gamma knife surgery.

3.  Microvascular compression:  When an artery in the internal auditory canal migrates to restrict the cochlear nerve, heartbeat synchronous tinnitus can present.  This case may present in the audiology clinic as an asymmetrical (high-frequency) SNHL with elevated or absent acoustic reflexes, present OAEs, and unilateral pulsating tinnitus.  Brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER) testing and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can diagnose the case.  A microvascular decompression technique can alleviate these symptoms.

So what about other causes of tinnitus? There are many different contributing factors that lead to tinnitus. The most common cause of tinnitus is damage to the cells in your hearing sensory organ, called the cochlea. 

Dr. Ben Thompson, Au.D.

Dr. Ben Thompson, Au.D.

Dr. Ben Thompson is an audiologist in California and founder of Pure Tinnitus. Dr. Thompson has a comprehensive knowledge of tinnitus management. He completed his residency at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) and is a past board member of the California Academy of Audiology. Via telehealth, Dr. Thompson provides services to patients with hearing loss and tinnitus.

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