People who experience hearing their heartbeat in their ear usually experience this when lying down and trying to fall asleep. This can be very bothersome to some individuals. For those who experience this, there is a medical term for it as well as medical reasons that this can occur.
Pulsatile tinnitus is the medical name used to describe the rhythmic beating or swishing sound of the heart being heard in the ear. It usually is only heard in one ear, but on rare occasions, it may be heard in both. Pulsatile tinnitus is sometimes called vascular tinnitus. This is because many of the cases of this condition are caused by disturbances with the blood flow in the neck or head. This can occur from narrowing of the blood vessels or increases in blood flow causing the sounds to be heard in the ear. This occurrence is different from continuous ringing in the ears, also known as tinnitus that is caused from damage to the inner or middle ear. Some individuals do experience both types of tinnitus at the same time, with most finding the pulsatile type to be the more bothersome.
Pulsatile tinnitus is not a condition in itself, but is a sign of another medical problem. It can be caused by a number of reasons, some being rather serious. One such condition that can cause pulsatile tinnitus is Atherosclerotic Carotid Artery Disease. This disease is caused by the build-up of plaque on the artery wall reducing the flow of blood through the artery. This condition is usually seen in elderly individuals who have a history of high blood pressure, angina, diabetes or elevated cholesterol. With proper medication, the symptoms of pulsatile tinnitus usually subside.
Some cases reveal an AV malformation that is caused by abnormal communication between the blood vessels. This can cause the vessel to rupture and could lead to stroke. If a tumor grows inside the ear canal or within the skull, this can also cause pulsatile tinnitus. Usually these types of tumors are benign. It also can be caused by hypertension, but this is rare and is usually associated with the medication that is being used to treat the hypertension.
Although there are serious medical conditions associated with pulsatile tinnitus, some conditions that are responsible for this occurrence are less serious. These include certain ear disorders that can cause a person to hear their own heartbeat in their ear such as infections of the middle ear or allergies. In addition, if the Eustachian tubes stay open, known as patulous Eustachian tubes, this can cause the heart sounds to become amplified. This condition can affect individuals who have lost a large amount of weight over a short amount of time. Individuals with this condition can hear their heartbeat, but also when they speak, they hear their own voice as muffled. Sometimes this condition goes away as quickly as it comes, but it is recommended to seek medical attention if this condition is noticed. Many times a simple ear exam will reveal fluid in the ear or an ear infection that can be easily treated. Other times this condition is caused by a sinus infection. Individuals taking antibiotics may also experience hearing their own heartbeat in their ear. Antibiotics can cause the mucous membranes within the ear to thicken, which can result in pulsatile tinnitus due to improper drainage of the mucus. Hyperthyroidism is another cause of hearing one’s own heartbeat, particularity when the heart begins to beat at a faster rate. Other less serious causes include side effects from prescription medications, anemia and stress.