Question

Tinnitus

Why do I hear a heartbeat in my ears?

A Answers (3)

  • If you hear a pulse-like noise in your ears, it may be pulsatile tinnitus. This is a rare condition caused when your blood vessels make sounds you can hear. Pulsatile tinnitus is almost always benign, but it could be caused by a serious underlying condition such as atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries) or a tumor.

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  • ADavid R. Salley, MD, Ear, Nose & Throat (Otolaryngology), answered on behalf of HCA Virginia
    Why Do I Hear A Heartbeat In My Ears?
    Hearing a heartbeat in your ears can indicate a hardening of the blood vessels in the neck. In this video, Dave Salley, MD, an ear, nose and throat specialist at Chippenham & Johnston-Willis Hospitals, discusses what other noises you might hear, and what they mean.
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  • A Howard Lewine, MD, Hospitalist, answered
    What you are describing is called pulsatile tinnitus. Most often people complain of a whooshing or thumping sound, often in sync with one's heartbeat.

    It is actually quite common. Often people will be aware of their heartbeat in their ear, similar to what you describe. Sometimes, another person can hear the noise by getting very close to your ear and listening carefully. Or your doctor can hear it with a stethoscope.

    Usually pulsatile tinnitus is not a cause for concern, especially if it lasts just a short time. Similar to you, many people are more aware of it at night.

    However, you should contact your doctor. High blood pressure, ear problems and an overactive thyroid gland can cause pulsatile tinnitus. On rare occasions, pulsatile tinnitus can be a symptom of an abnormality of the carotid artery.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.
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How do other illnesses affect pulsatile tinnitus?