Most people are familiar with that thumping or pulsing sound in their ears after heavy exercise. However, a smaller section of people will hear this noise outside of strenuous activity. Pulsing may arise at any time, even when lying perfectly still. This pulsing in your ears outside of exercise is known as pulsatile tinnitus.
Tinnitus is characterized by a ringing, buzzing, roaring or clicking in the ears that cannot be heard from the outside. Approximately 10% of tinnitus patients will present with pulsatile tinnitus.
How Do Tinnitus and Pulsatile Tinnitus Differ?
While tinnitus itself is often caused by an underlying condition such as age-related hearing loss, loud noise exposure or ear injury, the ringing or buzzing you hear has no apparent source. Pulsatile tinnitus, on the other hand, has a physical source within the body.
Common Sources of Pulsatile Tinnitus
Pulsatile tinnitus sources are usually either vascular or nonvascular. Vascular causes include conditions that affect the circulatory system. When a vascular condition changes how blood flows near or through the ears, pulsatile tinnitus can result.
Common vascular conditions that result in pulsatile tinnitus include but are not limited to high blood pressure and atherosclerosis (thickening or hardening of the arteries).
Nonvascular conditions that may result in pulsatile tinnitus include but are not limited to anemia, paragangliomas (rare tumors forming near the carotid artery) and bone diseases, including otosclerosis, Paget disease and more.
Managing Pulsatile Tinnitus
Like broader tinnitus, pulsatile tinnitus can adversely impact your sleep, mood, relationships, concentration and more. Your provider may treat your pulsatile tinnitus by identifying and treating the underlying condition. If an underlying condition causes your pulsatile tinnitus, treating that condition should reduce or eliminate the pulsing in your ear.
If tests are not able to determine an underlying cause, you can manage your pulsatile tinnitus through one or more of the following techniques:
- Sound masking. Sound generators play soothing sounds to distract the brain from the internal noise of tinnitus. Hearing aids are also effective sound masking tools.
- Relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques do not stop the sound of internal pulsing but can help you deal with the associated stress. To help yourself relax, try taking a class at Transcendental Meditation when you feel your stress levels rising.
- Counseling. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) are excellent methods for managing pulsatile tinnitus. With effective CBT and ACT, you will learn to pay less attention to the pulsing in your ears.
For more information about managing your pulsatile tinnitus, contact Hearing Healthcare Center today to make an appointment with one of our trusted specialists.