While standard tinnitus usually has no identifiable cause, it’s more likely that there will be an underlying factor behind pulsatile tinnitus (though it may still prove difficult to pinpoint).
Many cases are caused by a change in the flow of blood through the vessels in and near your ear (around your head or neck), or a change in your awareness of this.
This change can happen for a number of reasons, including:
- An increase in the blood flow around your body
This can happen as a result of pregnancy, exercise, some medications or anaemia (a severe iron deficiency).
- Irregularly shaped blood vessels
Blood vessels with irregular shapes can encourage your blood to flow vfaster, which makes more noise than slow-flowing blood.
- Artery blockages
Atherosclerosis is a condition that causes fatty deposits to clog up your arteries, meaning your blood will not be able to easily flow through them.
Your awareness of the blood flowing in and around your ears can be caused by conditions that can block your ears, meaning your internal sounds are amplified. These include a perforated eardrum and impacted earwax.
Other common causes of pulsatile tinnitus include:
- High blood pressure
- Hyperthyroidism – when the thyroid gland is overactive
- Blockage in your arteries
- Altered awareness – brought on by factors such as conductive hearing loss
- Head or neck tumours
You may also have symptoms of pulsatile tinnitus if you suffer from a condition that leads to increased pressure in your head (characterised by headaches and problems with your eyesight, as well as pulsatile tinnitus).
If you do notice any signs that could indicate pulsatile tinnitus, speak to your doctor as soon as possible so they can examine you and confirm the diagnosis.