Ringing in the Ears can be Caused by Blood Pressure

You may not be aware of it but you probably know somebody who suffers with the constant ringing in their ears otherwise known as tinnitus. That’s because most of the time there is nothing that can be done for the sufferer of tinnitus — they just have to live with it. But in some cases tinnitus can be a symptom of an underlying problem such as say, high blood pressure.

The ‘special’ 3 percent

Pulsatile Tinnitus CausesThis would often be the case for the 3% of tinnitus sufferers who have the rare form of tinnitus known as pulsatile tinnitus. In these cases the noises they hear in their ears can be heard as a rhythmic pulsing usually in time with the heartbeat. Sometimes the noises are heard as a thumping or a whooshing sound but in most of these cases the noises are due to a disturbance of the blood flow through the individual’s ear.

This is because pulsatile tinnitus occurs when either the blood vessels inside the neck or head of the sufferer narrow constricting the flow of blood or if there is an increase in blood flow. Because of this, the blood is caused to flow in a more turbulent manner than usual and so can be heard within the ear. Pulsatile tinnitus is a different form of continuous tinnitus which typically is caused by damage to the cochlear of the inner ear or by damage to the nerves within the ear itself. It is of course possible to experience both types of tinnitus at the same time.

Someone who is suffering from pulsatile tinnitus would do well to have a more thorough checkup. As was mentioned earlier this type of tinnitus could be as a result of increased blood flow which might be the cause of the increased blood pressure. As most people know, an increase in blood pressure is something that you should see your doctor about. Happily however, by lowering the blood pressure through lifestyle and dietary changes or at worst medication — then the sufferer may well find that their tinnitus is also resolved.

Other Causes of Pulsatile Tinnitus

Another common cause of pulsatile tinnitus is through idiopathic intra-cranial hypertension  (IIH).
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Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension

Idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), sometimes called by the older names benign intracranial hypertension (BIH) or pseudotumor cerebri (PTC), is a neurological disorder that is characterized by an increased intracranial pressure (pressure around the brain) in the absence of a tumor or other diseases. The main symptoms are headache, nausea and vomiting as well as pulsatile tinnitus (buzzing in the ears), double vision and other visual symptoms. If untreated, it may lead associated swelling of the optic disc in the eye, which can progress to vision loss.

Pulsatile tinnitus can also be caused by a glomus tumour which is a benign vascular tumour most usually located in the ear just below the artery and typically is a result of cholesterol buildup on the artery wall. Yet another cause of pulsatile tinnitus is due to a middle ear infection or inflammation.

Infection and Inflamation

This inflammation causes increased blood flow to the tissue present in the ear and the blood flow causes the pulsing noises or tinnitus. Then  there’s the  patulous Eustachian tube, where the Eustachian tube (shown red in the diagram) remains intermittently open and causes  an echo like sound of the person’s own heartbeat, breathing, and speech. As the Eustachian tube is behind the middle ear it can be a  major cause of tinnitus the reason being that when it is damaged or infected, fluid is accumulates in the air filled space in middle ear and causes pulsating tinnitus.

This is very similar to the standard congestion one gets from a cold or allergies, though there are subtle differences. The effect is often described as “drier”; with normal congestion, breathing and talking echo in the head with a muffled sound. With patulous Eustachian tube, all breaths echo on the eardrum without the muffled effect. Similarly, external noises such as the voices of other people are also not muffled. In addition, patulous Eustachian tube generally feels dry with no clogged feeling or sinus pressure.

Cures for Pulsatile Tinnitus

Obviously, the cures available to the pulsatile tinnitus sufferer will very much depend on the cause of the problem. As mentioned earlier, if the problem is due to high blood pressure then reducing it should relieve the tinnitus. In the case of middle ear infection, treatment with antibiotics or medicated drops to eradicate infection will in most cases deal with the tinnitus as well.

With idiopathic intra-cranial hypertension a number of treatments are available and the one used will depend on the exact cause of the problem.

However there is one thing you can be sure of and that is that – within reason – most physical causes of tinnitus can be successfully treated.


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