What Causes Fluttering In The Ears & How It Is Treated?

Topic Overview

Fluttering in Ears is a sound that many people experience sometimes on and off and sometimes continuously. It can sometimes affect the hearing ability of a person.

Fluttering in Ears generally is benign and more of a nuisance than anything else. However, it definitely affects the quality of life of a person. The seriousness of Fluttering in Ears depends on the underlying cause of it. People describe it as a sound of butterflies flapping wings in their ear. [1, 2, 3]

Fluttering in Ears can be a tough condition to diagnose as there are no clear cut guidelines as to what constitutes a fluttering sound. Physicians normally refer to published case studies to come to a diagnosis and start treatment for it. Fluttering in Ear may occur in one or both ears. Sometimes, Fluttering in Ears may also sound as if the heart is beating very fast. It may also resemble the humming sound of a machine. [1, 2, 3] This article highlights some of the potential causes and treatment options for Fluttering in Ears.

What Causes Fluttering In The Ears & How Is It Treated?

Some of the potential causes of Fluttering in Ears include

Tinnitus: This is perhaps the most common cause of Fluttering in Ears. Tinnitus is described as a perception of sound when there is actually no sound present. It has been estimated that around 20% of people in the United States experience tinnitus. It is usually a buzzing or a clicking sound but sometimes it can also resemble a tapping, bubbling, crackling, blowing, or fluttering sound. These sounds are rhythmic and may come and go or may be continuous. [3]

There are certain medical conditions that cause tinnitus to include ear infections, tumors, and a condition called Meniere’s disease. Chronic exposure to loud noises is also one of the common causes of tinnitus. [3]

Treatment: There are quite a few treatment options available to manage tinnitus. The treatment generally depends on the cause of it. Some physicians recommend behavioral therapy as a means of diversion from the constant sound in the ears by way of relaxation techniques. Behavioral therapy is also quite beneficial for anxiety and depression that often at times accompanies with tinnitus. [3]

Additionally, hearing aids will be prescribed if hearing loss is believed to be the cause of tinnitus resulting in Fluttering in Ears. Antidepressants and anxiolytics are also sometimes effective in treating tinnitus. [3]

Myoclonus: Some researchers are of the opinion that abnormal contractions of the muscles in the middle ear can result in Fluttering in Ears. However, this is quite rare form of middle ear myoclonus. To confirm this as a cause of Fluttering in Ears, the physician will conduct a tympanometry to look at the functioning of the middle ear and to see whether the eardrum is working fine. [3]

In some cases, middle ear myoclonus does not have a cause and is termed as idiopathic. In other cases, an injury or trauma, facial muscle spasms are believed to be the cause of middle ear myoclonus resulting in Fluttering in Ears. [3]

Treatment: Middle ear myoclonus can be treated both medically as well as surgically. Some of the medications given for this condition include benzodiazepines, carbamazepine, and botulinum toxin. The surgical procedure for treatment of middle ear myoclonus is termed as tympanectomy which involves detaching the muscles from the middle ear. This often gets rid of the Fluttering in Ears. [3]

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction: This is yet another common cause of Fluttering in Ears. The middle ear is connected to the back of the nose by the eustachian tube. The primary function of this structure is to keep the middle ear ventilated, maintain equilibrium between the internal and external air pressure, and protecting the middle ear. [3]

Any type of dysfunction in the eustachian tube can cause problems like muffled sound with hearing, ringing in the ears, fluttering in ears, ear fullness, and in some cases problems with balance. There have been some cases where eustachian tube dysfunction is caused as a result of an upper respiratory infection or allergies. [3]

Treatment: In most of the cases, eustachian tube dysfunction resolves spontaneously. If the middle ear air pressure and external air pressure are not in equilibrium then certain activities like yawning or chewing can help equalize it. Medical treatment may be required if the symptoms do not resolve. [3]

Some of the treatment options for eustachian tube dysfunction include decongestants, nasal douching, and antibiotics. Inserting a pressure equalizing tube in the middle ear is the most preferred surgical method of treating eustachian tube dysfunction causing Fluttering in Ears. [3]

Meniere Disease: This condition is defined as a disorder of the vestibular system. The function of the vestibular system is to control balance. Meniere Disease causes fluid to accumulate in the inner ear causing a variety of symptoms including Fluttering in Ears. Additionally, the person will experience dizziness, hearing loss, and a feeling of pressure in the ears. [3]

The root cause of this condition is not well known; however, there are some predisposing factors to include viral infections, allergies, problems with blood circulation, autoimmune disorders, migraines and in some cases genetic makeup of a person. [3]

Treatment: Some of the treatment options for Meniere Disease include certain lifestyle modifications, medications, injections in the ears, and at times surgery. [3]

Hypothyroidism: This is an autoimmune disorder in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones required by the body to carry out various metabolic activities. It is estimated that around 40% of people with a known diagnosis of hypothyroidism have problems with hearing and often complain about Fluttering in Ears. Despite treatment for the condition, 10% of people still have Fluttering in Ears. [3]

Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include persistent fatigue, unintentional weight gain, cold intolerance, vertigo, and ringing in the ears. Some people also tend to have hearing loss due to hypothyroidism. [3]

Treatment: A study conducted on people with known diagnosis of hypothyroidism and also with complains of symptoms of Meniere Disease who were treated with thyroxin showed that after 12 weeks of treatment there was significant improvement in their symptoms including Fluttering in Ears. However, the study was very limited in terms of the sample size and thus researchers believe more studies are needed to see what effects medications for thyroid have on Fluttering in Ears. [3]

Hypertension: This also at times can cause Fluttering in Ears. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can at times lead to hearing loss. This is because of lack of adequate blood flow to the cochlea. This has been substantiated by studies which show that there is a clear link between hypertension and tinnitus and hearing loss. [3]

The study showed that 44% of people with tinnitus also had hypertension. However, there have also been reports that some of the hearing loss noted could have been potentially caused by antihypertensives given to control blood pressure. [3]

Treatment: The best way to treat hypertension is by way of medications to include diuretics, Ace inhibitors, and calcium channel blockers. It is still not confirmed that these medications result in hearing problems and research is still ongoing. [3]

Earwax: Earwax is something that accumulates with time and tends to cause hearing problems including Fluttering in Ears. This usually happens when there is excess production of earwax or due to lack of inadequate ear hygiene practices. A person with excess accumulation of earwax complains of pain in the ears, muffled hearing, tinnitus, partial hearing loss, and discharge from the ears. [3]

Treatment: Removal of the earwax is the best way to get rid of hearing loss or Fluttering in Ears caused by its accumulation. There are numerous ways to clean the ears up free of any earwax. However, it is recommended for people to not try to do this on their own especially if there is excess accumulation of earwax to prevent any injury or infection to the ears. Earwax can be successfully removed manually, irrigation of the ears, and wax softeners. [3]

In conclusion, Fluttering in Ears in majority of the cases is more of a nuisance and an annoying sensation than anything serious. However, if the sensation does not go away and is worsening then it is better to consult with a physician to get to the bottom of the cause and start treatment to get rid of the sensation. [1, 2, 3]

If hypertension, hypothyroidism or hearing loss are believed to be the causes then managing these conditions more often than not gets rid of Fluttering in Ears. For causes like earwax accumulation, just irrigating and clearing the ears is good enough to get rid of Fluttering in Ears. It should be noted that response to treatments is quite variable and treatments should be individualized by physicians when it comes to managing Fluttering in Ears. [1, 2, 3]

References:

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