Tinnitus is the perception of unwanted sound. There are various causes and the sound can range in severity, volume, and pitch. Tinnitus can either be subjective, meaning only the person suffering from tinnitus can hear the unwanted noise, or objective, meaning someone else is able to hear the sound in addition to the sufferer. Those suffering from tinnitus can be very descriptive when trying to express what they are hearing. The noise can sound like anything imaginable, from birds chirping to rushing water. The sound generated can be high or low in pitch and can also fluctuate throughout the day. In addition, one can hear the tinnitus constantly or intermittently. Tinnitus can effect sleep as well as one’s emotional state.
Pulsatile tinnitus is a form of tinnitus when the unwanted sound one hears tends to match that of his or her own heart rate or pulse. There seems to be a rhythm to the sound. It can be heard on one or both sides of the head and can effect men and women of all ages.
Although it is not recommended as part of a treatment to listen or pay attention to tinnitus, one can check for pulsatile tinnitus by feeling your pulse while listening to the sound. This can be an indicator that the person is suffering from pulsatile tinnitus specifically.
The cause of pulsatile tinnitus is typically not associated with hearing loss. They may or may not be a change in blood flow but an increase of awareness of the individual’s blood flow. It is typically related to a vascular process and, if there is a change in blood flow, the cause can be from numerous reasons. It is important for anyone with pulsatile tinnitus to rule out the chance of a greater physical threat or ailment with a thorough examination from a medical doctor. Therefore pulsatile tinnitus can either be a symptom or the problem in and of itself. This warrants a medical evaluation to look for know, identifiable, and treatable causes. There is an opportunity to treat a greater problem as well as possibly eliminate the tinnitus as it would only a symptom in this case. If it is proven that the pulsatile tinnitus is the only presenting issue then it can be treated to achieve habituation and possible remission. Underlying causes of tinnitus are often unidentifiable and it is rare to find a single identifiable cause. However there is an increase in the possibility of finding an underlying cause when the tinnitus is pulsatile in form.
As with “regular” tinnitus, many people who suffer from pulsatile tinnitus experience insomnia, loss of concentration, anxiety, and depression. They may have difficulty completing tasks, going to work, and maintain relationships. Support from those who care is extremely important for the tinnitus sufferer to get well, particularly when there is an emotional response to the sound.
Treatment for pulsatile tinnitus is similar to that of “regular” tinnitus in that treatment should involve developing coping skills and learning to detach from the sound. If the mind finds the noise to be insignificant then it tends to focus on something else, thereby pushing the tinnitus into the background and out of conscious thought. When habituation is achieved, the volume tends to decrease and the sufferer experiences relief in both volume and emotional stress. Some other methods that can help include hearing aids, some sound producing devices, hypnotherapy, meditation, learning coping skills and tools to detach and retrain the brain, and, in some cases, one can consult a doctor to discuss medication options. Overall someone who suffers from pulsatile tinnitus needs a multi-modal approach to achieve sound reduction and emotional response desensitization to provide the greatest opportunity for habituation or remission. It is not common for pulsatile tinnitus to resolve itself without intervention so a proactive approach will help to achieve the best results.