I can hear my heartbeat in my ears

I can hear my heartbeat in my ears

Many patients complain that they can hear their heartbeat in their ears. It is possible for this to happen, and it can involve one or both ears. The throbbing sensation may start gradually or just occur suddenly, usually while you normally are lying down.  It is normally harmless and may happen to you while trying to sleep or while you are at work.

Is there something wrong with my heart?

If you can hear heartbeat in your ear, you must be experiencing what is called pulsatile tinnitus, or a rhythmic pulsation that is in coordination with your normal heartbeat. This condition is also called avascular tinnitus, and may be related to blood flow disturbances. About three percent of tinnitus patients have this kind of sensation.

Although most cases of tinnitus involves a ringing or buzzing sensation in the ears, some people may experience pulsatile tinnitus, which usually comes from blood vessels in the head or neck when blood flow is disturbed. It can result from an increase either in blood flow or due to the narrowing of blood vessels. Both of these conditions result in turbulence in blood flow, which can make you complain, “I can hear my heartbeat in my ear.” It is very different from a continuous type of tinnitus that is associated with damage to the auditory nerve or the cochlea in the inner ear.

Is it dangerous and what should I do?i-can-hear-my-heartbeat-in-my-ear2

Pulsatile tinnitus is not a thing you should worry about generally. It usually dissipates on its own. However, if it begins to disrupt your activities, it is best for you to talk to your doctor.

Your doctor will normally conduct an ear examination and listen to your blood flow in the arteries of the neck. An unusual sound can be heard as blood rushes past some obstruction in the artery. If present, your doctor can request a test to investigate for a narrowing of an artery and/or a possible malformation in the carotid artery. Surgery might be recommended to correct the underlying problem. Others may need to undergo a hearing test or some other tests.

What causes pulsatile tinnitus and what is the solution?

Causes of pulsatile tinnitus include:

1.  Benign Intracranial Hypertension

It is due to an increased pressure in the cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. Patients with this condition are normally young overweight females.  Symptoms include dizziness, hearing loss, headaches, ear fullness, and visual disturbances.

Treatment includes the use of water pills and weight loss, which usually results in a dramatic improvement of symptoms.

2.  Glomus Tumour

Glomus tumour is a non-malignant vascular tumour in the ear or at the base of the skull. It consists of intertwined blood vessels that cause a throbbing sensation. A common symptom is hearing loss.

Treatment often involves surgical removal. Older patients may not need any treatment because these tumours grow very slowly.

3.  Atherosclerotic Carotid Artery Disease

This disease results in the narrowing of the carotid artery. This blood vessel may be blocked due to the build-up of cholesterol in the artery, which can results in turbulent blood flow and leads to pulsatile tinnitus. It is common in older patients who have a history of smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and angina.

Treatment involves the use of medications.

4.  Intracranial Vascular Lesions

It includes aneurisms and arteriovenous malformations, consist of abnormal connections between arteries and veins. These abnormal blood vessels can result in disturbances in blood flow from an artery directly to a vein. Aneurisms and arteriovenous malformations may be extremely dangerous because they can lead to bleeding in your brain.

Management includes surgery and embolization.

5.  Middle Ear Effusion

Middle ear effusion is normally due to the accumulation of fluid in the middle ear. The underlying cause can be an infection or inflammation in the middle ear or a Eustachian tube dysfunction. It can be accompanied by hearing loss, a feeling of fullness, and pain.

Treatment includes antibiotics, nasal sprays, decongestants, or surgery.

6. Venous Humi-can-hear-my-heartbeat-in-my-ear3

Venous hum can occur in pregnant or anaemic individuals, or in patients who have thyroid problems. These conditions increase blood flow through the large jugular vein in the neck, which may be felt as a “humming” sensation.

Treatment of the underlying problem usually results in improvement.

7.  High Blood Pressure

Anti-hypertensive medications usually produces pulsatile tinnitus after intake of medication. Tinnitus usually subsides on its own after four to six weeks. Other patients can improve after a shift to other medications. In some patients, tinnitus is associated with high blood pressure, which dissipates after intake of medication.

8.  Twist Arteries

Twisted arteries in the head and neck can cause turbulence in blood flow, which can lead to pulsatile tinnitus and no treatment is necessary.

If you feel that this condition is disrupting your activities, it is best for you to consult to your integrative doctor.

Do you have any condition that interferes with your quality of life?



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