Pulsing in Ear – Tinnitus Explained

Pulsing in-ear is also known as pulsating, or vascular tinnitus. This is an unusual sensation in the ear when it feels like you hear your heartbeat in the ear.

Image Credit: tinnitracks.com

The reasons for such sensations are numerous but generally it happens due to the alternations in the intensity of the blood flow in arteries and veins and so on in the area of the neck and skull, and also the ear. Though it may seem nothing serious, this symptom can be a sign of something really bad going on in the organism.

Here are several most frequent reasons for pulsing in the ear to appear:

  • middle ear effusion,
  • chronic inflammation or middle ear infection,
  • vascular tumors,
  • Eustachian tube dysfunction,
  • carotid artery-cavernous sinus fistula,
  • arteriovenous malformations,
  • venous hum.

Ear Facts

Air-fluid space is what the middle ear represents. This means there is always some amount of fluid there. But when fluid increases in the ear it generally causes pulsing in-ear no matter what was the reason for the actual increase. It can be infection, or inflammation, or Eustachian tube dysfunction.

When it comes to chronic inflammation, the blood flow in the middle ear increases especially to the part of the ear that is inflamed and therefore the heartbeat is heard so well – the sensitivity of the ear increases.

In a normal healthy state the tubes open and close when a person makes chewing, swallowing, or yawning movements, or while speaking. However in such illnesses, like colds and sinusitis, also allergies or excessive earwax the tube gets blocked. This is called Eustachian tube dysfunction and it causes pulsing in-ear. All the above-mentioned cases of pulsing in the ear can be alleviated with antibiotics, decongestants and nasal steroid spray treatment.


  • One more reason for causing pulsing in the ear is vascular tumor. Such tumors are also known under the name of as paragangliomas (glomus tumors). Generally it is not considered a dangerous condition but as long as it makes a normal hearing process complicated and the general sensation is not really pleasant, it is recommended not to delay the treatment, which is commonly surgical.
  • One of the aforementioned reasons capable of causing pulsing in ear are arteriovenous malformations. They are abnormal groups of arteries and veins that can appear in the cranial cavity near the auditory nerve. Thus, pulsation in the auditory nerve follows to the ear and the only treatment method in this case is surgery.
  • Carotid artery-cavernous sinus fistula that can also lead to pulsing in ear is generally a result of some very serious head trauma. In this condition the largest venous-artery connection in the carnival cavity takes an abnormal form. However this problem can be treated without surgical interference. Generally interventional radiology deals with such cases successfully.
  • Venous hum is one more condition that causes pulsing in ear frequently. The underlying reason behind this condition is the alternations in the blood flow in arteries and veins and more exactly in the jugular vein – the largest vein in the neck. There is a common problem that pregnant women can have as well as patients with thyroid problems and the ones suffering from anemia. Blood is transmitted from brain back to the heart and on the way it passes this very jugular vein. During this session such thing as a “hum” can be heard.

In case vascular tinnitus, or pulsing in ear is caused by this very venous hum, it is strongly recommended to apply for a health care provider’s consultation at once and not neglect the condition in any case.


  1. Have tried anti-biotics and various nasal sprats recommended by my doctor, but none seem to make any difference. My doctor seems reluctant to try anything else. What do you suggest ?

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