Many people can feel their pulse or heart beating in their ears. Sometimes, it can even cause disturbance in their sleep. Sensing your heart beat in your ears when lying is often nothing to worry about; however, this sensation can get aggravated if a person is suffering from hypertension. If your blood pressure is normal, then most likely there is nothing to worry about. The sensation of heart beating in your ear can also increase if there is increased release of “catecholamine,” such as adrenalin, in case of anxiety, caffeine consumption, fear, etc.
Medically this feeling of hearing your heart beating in your ear is known as pulsatile Tinnitus.
What is Pulsatile Tinnitus?
Pulsatile tinnitus is a condition occurring as a result by circulation of blood near your ears of within your ears.(1) The difference between most types of tinnitus and pulsatile tinnitus is that the latter actually has a physical source for the sound heard by your ears.(2) Pulsatile tinnitus is a magnified sound of circulation of blood through your arteries which your ears pick up.
In other case of tinnitus, the buzzing or the ringing in the ears occurs as result of the nerves picking up the abnormal electrical signals, which are getting transmitted to the brain from your ears.
Symptoms of Pulsatile Tinnitus: Other Than Hearing Your Heart Beating In Your Ear, What Else Do You Feel With It?(1)
The primary sensation of pulsatile tinnitus is the hearing or the sensation of a sound in the ears, which matches with your pulse or heartbeat. One can also check the pulse along with hearing your heart beating in your ears.
Other than this you can also experience lightheadedness or palpitations and when you feel this you should consult your doctor immediately. In case you are feeling abrupt chest pain or other heart attack symptoms, then you need to can call 911 ASAP.
Causes of Pulsatile Tinnitus: What Does It Mean When You Hear Your Heart Beating In Your Ear?(1, 3)
It can mean a lot of things, as there are many underlying causes for feeling your heart beating in your ear. Most of the causes occur as a result of circulation issues. What it can mean when you hear your heart beating in your ear; i.e. some of the common causes are:
- It Can Mean You Have Hypertension (High Blood Pressure): When there is an increase in your blood pressure, then there is also increase in the pressure or force of blood against the arterial walls. When this forceful blood circulation occurs in the arteries present around or in your ears, then it is felt as your heart beating in your ears and is also referred to as pulsatile tinnitus.
- It Can Mean You are having Turbulent Blood Circulation: Narrowing of the veins and arteries of your neck causes changes in blood circulation flowing back and forth from your head. This irregular circulation or turbulence is heard by your ears as your heart beating in your ear and is a cause of pulsatile tinnitus.
- It Can Mean You Are Suffering from Atherosclerosis: This is a condition where your arteries are blocked due to accumulation of fats, cholesterol and waste materials and this results in turbulent or disturbed blood flow. When this is cause of your pulsatile tinnitus, then you can hear a rhythmic sound in one of the ears.
- It Can Mean You have Abnormal Capillaries: If there is any problem with the capillaries, which are the tiny blood vessels connecting the arteries to veins, then it can cause you to feel your heart beating in your ear.
- It Can Mean You have Neck or Head Tumors: When there is a tumor compressing a blood vessel, then it also causes pulsatile tinnitus or the sensation of your heart beating in your ear.
Diagnosis of Pulsatile Tinnitus(1)
If you are constantly having the sensation of your heart beating in your ear, then you need to consult your doctor immediately. Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms.
If your doctor can also hear the pulsatile sound with stethoscope, then it is termed as objective pulsatile tinnitus; if not, then it is termed as subjective pulsatile tinnitus.(4) Various tests are also done to find out if there is any hearing loss in either or both the ears. Imaging tests that are done consists of: CT scan, ultrasound, angiography and MRI scan.
Blood tests are done to look for anemia or thyroid disease. The patient is also assessed to see if he/she is suffering from hypertension, which is the common cause for the sensation of heart beating in your ear.
If the diagnosis is pulsatile tinnitus, then the patient is referred to a cardiologist for further evaluation for hypertension and circulation problems.
What are the Complications from Pulsatile Tinnitus?
When the patient is constantly having the sound of heart beating in the ear, then it can cause problems with sleep. Poor sleep in turn causes problems like: tiredness, difficulty in concentration, weight gain, cardiovascular issues and other metabolism issues.
What is the Treatment for Pulsatile Tinnitus?(1, 5, 6, 7)
Treatment for heart beating in your ear or pulsatile tinnitus is done by treating the underlying cause.
- Medications and Lifestyle Changes: Hypertension and problems with artery and vein are treated with medications along with lifestyle modifications, such as: regular exercise, following a low-sodium diet, quitting smoking, relaxation and reduction of stress.
- Surgery: If the cause of heart beating in your ear or pulsatile tinnitus is a specific problem with a vein or artery, then surgery such as catheter procedure is done to treat it. Stent placement is also done to open a narrowed artery to allow free circulation of blood.
- Sound Therapy: This treatment is done when the culprit blood vessel cannot be treated. Sound therapy comprises of playing “white noise,” such as background soft music to help distract you from pulsatile tinnitus or to alter your brain’s sensitivity to the pitch of the tinnitus.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Cognitive behavior therapy, which is talk-therapy, customized to change the manner in which you think of your problem so that your emotional reaction and behavior to it changes, can also be done.
What is the Prognosis of Pulsatile Tinnitus?(7)
The prognosis of pulsatile tinnitus is mostly good and also depends on the cause of why you feel your heart beating in your ear. Majority of the causes of pulsatile tinnitus are easily treated with lifestyle changes and medications.