What Causes a Pulsating Sound in Your Ears?

A pulsating sound in the ears is caused by a rare form of tinnitus known as “pulsatile tinnitus.” Although it is not considered to be a serious health threat, patients diagnosed with tinnitus often suffer from mental and emotional distress, notes the United States’ National Institutes of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).

Tinnitus is an internal auditory perception characterized by a ringing, roaring, throbbing, hissing or whooshing sound in the ears. It is referred to as “tinnitus aurium” when it occurs in one or both ears and “tinnitus cranii” when it occurs in the head area. Tinnitus is classified into two types: objective and subjective. Pulsatile tinnitus is a form of objective tinnitus, which accounts for less than 5 percent of total reported cases of this condition, according to the University of California San Francisco Medical Center.

Pulsatile tinnitus is typically described as a rhythmic throbbing in the ears that corresponds to the periodic beating of the heart. This sound is audible to a physician when a stethoscope is pressed against the neck or when a small microphone is embedded within the ear canal. The underlying cause for pulsatile tinnitus may be vascular in nature or tumor-related.

Abnormalities in the arteries and veins of the neck and head may drastically affect blood flow to the ears, which can lead to pulsatile tinnitus. This condition can also be triggered by the development of cranial tumors or anomalies in a patient’s neural circuitry. As of 2015, medical specialists have not discovered a cure for tinnitus, reports the NIDCD.