ear with a colorful range of sound waves around it

What is Pulsatile Tinnitus?

Contributed by Dr. Eleni Santarelli

1/19/2024 12:00:00 AM • 4 min read

Tinnitus is the presence of noise in the head that others cannot hear. It is a common condition that has many causes and may or may not be associated with hearing loss. It can sound like ringing, humming, buzzing or a slew of other sounds. Tinnitus may be constant or intermittent. Tinnitus is generally considered a symptom associated with a condition, tinnitus itself is not harmful or dangerous but in some cases can be bothersome.

What is Pulsatile tinnitus?

Pulsatile tinnitus is different than the more common form of tinnitus described above. “It is a rhythmic thumping or whooshing in one or both ears1." The rhythm follows the pattern of your heartbeat. Pulsatile tinnitus is more likely to have an underlying medical condition than traditional tinnitus. If you believe that you have pulsatile tinnitus, you should seek medical treatment by an Audiologist.

What Causes Pulsatile Tinnitus?

The ears and auditory system are highly vascular, meaning there is a lot of blood flow near them. So, any type of disorder affecting the vascular system may cause pulsatile tinnitus. Causes include but are not limited to hypertension, blood vessel abnormalities, arthrosclerosis, head and neck trauma, middle ear tumors (Glomus Tumors), anemia and Paget's disease.

What Happens if I have Pulsatile Tinnitus?

The first step towards a diagnosis is a comprehensive evaluation including tympanometry, audiometry and measurement of acoustic reflexes by an audiologist. Often imaging is required and will be ordered by the Otolaryngologist.

Treatment for Pulsatile Tinnitus

Once a diagnosis has been made, treatment can begin. It is common for pulsatile tinnitus to improve with treatment. For example, if the determined cause is Atherosclerosis, management with medication generally treats the main condition, in turn reducing the tinnitus. If the pulsatile tinnitus is not determined to have an underlying cause, treatment includes relaxation and counseling techniques as well as amplification or sound generators.2, 3

If you think that you have pulsatile tinnitus, you should seek care from a medical professional. To learn more about tinnitus, click here. 


  1. Penn Medicine. (2023). Pulsatile Tinnitus.
  2. Cleveland Clinic. (2023). Pulsatile Tinnitus.
  3. Cleveland Clinic. (2023). Tinnitus.
  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2023) Tinnitus.
eleni santarelli headshot
Dr. Eleni Santarelli
Audiologist Lic #A.02315

Eleni Santarelli grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and obtained her bachelor's degree in speech-language pathology & audiology from the University of Akron in 2017. She then went on to pursue her doctorate in Clinical Audiology at the Northeast Ohio Au.D Consortium. She did her fourth-year externship at the Columbus VA before completing her doctorate in May of 2021. Dr. Santarelli also obtained her certificate in Animal Audiology from the University of Cincinnati. She is licensed in the State of Ohio and is a member of the American Academy of Audiology and the Ohio Academy of Audiology. As a person who loves animals and sports, Dr. Santarelli can be found volunteering at the Cleveland Zoo, coaching basketball and cheering on Cleveland's pro teams in her free time. 

Dr. Santarelli wants to help people hear better because it allows them to have full and meaningful social interactions with their friends, family and keeps them safe in unfamiliar environments. When she helps someone to hear better it makes her feel like she has made a positive difference in their life.

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