Pulsatile Tinnitus...Are you a Whoosher?

What is Pulsatile Tinnitus?

Whooshers.com defines pulsatile tinnitus as the "perception of hearing a “whooshing” sound in the ears that is synchronous with the heartbeat." Pulsatile tinnitus is a symptom of a potentially serious underlying health condition.  

Pulsatile tinnitus usually originates within the blood vessels inside the head or neck region when disturbed blood flow occurs. This results from either increased blood flow or a narrowing of the opening of the blood vessel, both of which result in turbulent blood flow that can be heard in the ears. In this regard, it is totally different from and independent of continuous tinnitus which results from damage to the inner ear and/or hearing nerve.

  • Whooshing or roaring sounds
  • Headache
  • Vision changes
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Problems with balance
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • In some cases, the noise improves or worsens with head turning, lying down or pressing on the soft tissues behind or below the ear
Factors that may increase your chance of pulsatile tinnitus include:
  • Ear infection
  • Meniere's disease
  • Allergies
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Tumors
  • Thyroid problems
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Head and neck tumors
  • High blood pressure
  • Hypertension and factors that increase blood pressure
  • Turbulent blood flow
  • Narrowing or kinking in a neck artery (carotid artery) or vein in your neck (jugular vein)
  • Malformation of capillaries
  • Arteriovenous malformation (AVM), abnormal connections between arteries and veins

Treatment Options for Pulsatile Tinnitus

There are various treatment options for pulsatile tinnitus from medication and mechanical devices to surgery or lifestyle changes. If you have an abnormal sound in one or both of your ears, see a doctor, such as an ENT, audiology specialist or a neuro-interventional specialist.

A health care provider specializing in vascular diseases of the head and neck (neurointerventional surgeon) should see patients with sudden onset pulsatile tinnitus as soon as possible. If tinnitus improves when pressing on soft tissues of the head or neck, a serious vascular condition may be causing the whooshing sound.  “Rapid and accurate diagnosis is crucial in these cases,” say our experts at Sky Ridge Medical Center.  

If you have any of the “whooshing” symptoms, please call 720-225-4327 to speak to a Sky Ridge navigator who can guide you through the process.