Why Do I Hear a Swishing Sound?

checking swishing sound in ear with hearing doctor in Charleston, SC

Audiologist checking swishing sound in ear with hearing doctor in Charleston, SC
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Elite Hearing Centers of America Treats Pulsatile Tinnitus

If you're hearing a swooshing or rhythmic sound in your ears that seems to follow your heartbeat, the hearing care providers at Elite Hearing Centers of America can determine if it might be pulsatile tinnitus. While the sound may be troublesome, pulsatile tinnitus treatment is available to manage this condition. We'll help you understand more about this illness, such as talking through the symptoms, possible causes, and treatment options to ensure you can find a solution that works for you.

What is Pulsatile Tinnitus?

Pulsatile tinnitus is a type of tinnitus where the sound you hear is in sync with your heartbeat. It is also known as vascular tinnitus because it is often caused by abnormalities in the blood vessels of the head and neck. The sound can range from a low-pitched throb to a high-pitched whooshing noise. Some patients experience pulsatile tinnitus in one ear only, while others have it in both.

Symptoms of Pulsatile Tinnitus

As mentioned, this condition comes with a pulsing or swooshing sound, but it can also cause other symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, and even hearing loss. Patients may also experience a change in the intensity of the sound, which may be related to their physical movements or activities. Some people also notice that the sound is louder at night, especially when everything is quiet. Is pulsatile tinnitus dangerous? On its own, not really. However, the sound can be debilitating and make it difficult for people to sleep. More dangerous could be the underlying health condition that caused it.

What Is the Most Common Cause of Pulsatile Tinnitus?

Pulsatile tinnitus is often associated with underlying medical conditions that affect the blood vessels, such as high blood pressure, arteriovenous malformations (AVMs), and aneurysms. While there are numerous possibilities, they each involve blood vessels. Other possible causes include:
  • Abnormal growths near the ear, such as glomus tumors
  • Abnormal blood flow in the temporal bone
  • Conductive hearing loss
  • Head trauma
  • Paget's disease
  • Anemia

Pulsatile Tinnitus Treatment Options

The treatment for pulsatile tinnitus depends on its underlying cause. If it is caused by a condition such as high blood pressure or AVMs, treating that medical condition may help reduce the symptoms. In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove the abnormal growth or repair the blood vessels. For other patients, medication such as diuretics or blood thinners may help manage the symptoms. If, after testing, an underlying cause cannot be determined, there are ways to cope with and alleviate symptoms, such as:
  • White noise machines to drown out the thumping or swooshing
  • Wearable sound generators to mask the inner ear noise
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Meditation

Can Pulsatile Tinnitus be Prevented?

Since pulsatile tinnitus is related to blood flow, prevention primarily involves maintaining good cardiovascular health and adopting a lifestyle that supports overall ear health. Regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting sodium intake, and refraining from smoking can help prevent high blood pressure, a common cause of pulsatile tinnitus. Regular hearing checkups and avoiding exposure to loud noises can also aid in preventing this condition. While not all causes of pulsatile tinnitus can be prevented, especially those related to genetic disorders or unforeseen trauma, these measures can considerably reduce the risk. It's always important to consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice.

How Is Pulsatile Tinnitus Different from Regular Tinnitus?

Pulsatile tinnitus differs from regular tinnitus in the cause and the phantom noise the individual with the condition hears. Regular tinnitus is often caused by exposure to loud noises, aging, and ear infections. Most people with this condition hear a ringing, buzzing, or whistling sound, which can be constant or intermittent but is usually more noticeable in quieter environments. It can also come with hearing loss. While both types of tinnitus can be disruptive and affect your quality of life, pulsatile tinnitus requires a different approach to treatment, as it is usually caused by an underlying medical condition that requires diagnosis.

See a Hearing Care Provider for Pulsatile Tinnitus

Pulsatile tinnitus is a rare type of tinnitus that the hearing care professionals at Elite Hearing Centers of America in FL, GA, WI, NC, and SC can help you manage. The rhythmic sounds in sync with your heartbeat can be distracting and cause you to lose sleep. Learn more about ways to manage the noise while getting treatment for the underlying condition. If you are experiencing any issues with your hearing, find one of our hearing care centers near you to schedule a free hearing test.

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