Tinnitus is the medical term for ringing in the ears. One of the rarer forms of this condition is pulsatile tinnitus. With this condition, patients don't hear ringing. Instead, they hear a loud and steady beat that syncs in time with their heart. The beat can be distracting, and some individuals report experiencing distress. Patients with pulsatile tinnitus typically have an underlying medical condition like intracranial hypertension, abnormal blood vessels, tumors in the head or neck, or connection issues between their veins and arteries. These issues range from mild to potentially life-threatening.
The exact method of diagnosis for pulsatile tinnitus may vary depending on the case. If patients don't need emergency medical treatment, they may be referred to a specialist called an otolaryngologist. This doctor will typically perform a hearing test or multiple hearing tests as the first method of diagnosis. During a pure tone audiometry test, a doctor will measure the pitches and volumes patients are able to hear. Some individuals may have trouble hearing because the pulsatile tinnitus drowns out other sounds. Hearing loss can also occur when patients have intracranial hypertension, which causes increased pressure on the brain, ears, and eyes. Damage to the ears may make patients unable to hear certain tones or process sounds clearly.