Pulsatile tinnitus is a rhythmic pulsing sound that some people hear often. There may be a link between anxiety and pulsatile tinnitus.

Pulsatile tinnitus causes people to constantly or frequently hear a rhythmic noise that can sound like a whooshing, hissing, or grinding sound. It is a type of tinnitus, which refers to a collection of conditions causing ringing or other sounds in the ears. The symptoms may occur with the rhythm of a heartbeat.

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions that cause symptoms, such as restlessness and uncontrollable worry. A person with an anxiety disorder may experience pulsatile tinnitus.

This article explores the link between anxiety and pulsatile tinnitus and other possible causes. It also looks at symptoms, treatment options, and more.

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Pulsatile tinnitus can have a range of causes. Doctors can identify the cause of pulsatile tinnitus in up to 70% of people with the condition.

There is a link between mental health and pulsatile tinnitus, but it is unclear whether anxiety causes the condition. Almost 60% of people with pulsatile tinnitus have depression or anxiety.

A 2018 study found that 65% of the 180 people with tinnitus evaluated also experience stress symptoms. However, stress is different from anxiety, and does not necessarily indicate an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety causes symptoms that can increase someone’s heart rate, and pulsatile tinnitus can cause symptoms that relate to the heart’s rhythm. Therefore, a higher heart rate could intensify the symptoms of someone with pulsatile tinnitus.

There is a link between anxiety and high blood pressure, and high blood pressure may cause pulsatile tinnitus.

Pulsatile tinnitus has several possible causes, some of which relate to blood flow.

The condition is typically the result of an underlying condition causing changes in someone’s blood flow. A higher heart rate can cause blood to flow faster past the ears, potentially leading to pulsatile tinnitus symptoms.

Some possible causes of pulsatile tinnitus include:

A doctor can order tests to help determine the cause of pulsatile tinnitus.

Learn more about pulsatile tinnitus.

The primary symptom of pulsatile tinnitus is a consistent, rhythmic noise in the ears, which typically matches the person’s heartbeat. The sound can occur in one or both ears and can sound like a buzzing, humming, or swooshing noise.

Other symptoms can include hearing loss, dizziness, and ear fullness.

Treatment for pulsatile tinnitus depends on the underlying cause.

When doctors can identify a specific cause, treating that condition may help alleviate pulsatile tinnitus. Possible treatments might include medication for high blood pressure, surgical interventions for tumors, or procedures to correct abnormal blood vessels.

Doctors may also recommend treatments for tinnitus, such as:

To reach an accurate diagnosis, a doctor may begin by asking questions about symptoms, taking a full medical history, and performing a physical examination.

They may then order tests to confirm the diagnosis or rule out other possible causes. Tests can include:

  • MRI scans
  • a CT scan
  • magnetic resonance angiography (MRA)
  • magnetic resonance venography (MRV)
  • computerized tomographic angiography (CTA)

The doctor will be able to advise on the recommended tests and what a person can expect.

Pulsatile tinnitus is a relatively rare type of tinnitus that affects around 5 million Americans.

Tinnitus, in general, is a common condition. A 2016 study found that around 1 in 10 adults in the United States experience tinnitus.

Learn more about tinnitus.

Pulsatile tinnitus is typically the result of another underlying condition that causes changes in blood flow. It might not always be possible to prevent pulsatile tinnitus, but managing risk factors for the underlying conditions may help reduce the risk.

It is best for a person to contact a doctor if they have concerns about pulsatile tinnitus.

Here are some frequently asked questions about pulsatile tinnitus.

Can emotional stress cause pulsatile tinnitus?

People with chronic tinnitus may experience stress. While stress may not directly cause pulsatile tinnitus, it could worsen symptoms by increasing the heart rate.

Why do I suddenly have pulsatile tinnitus?

Sudden pulsatile tinnitus can be due to various reasons, such as a change in blood pressure, the onset of a new medical condition, or changes in medication. It is best for a person to contact a doctor for advice if they suddenly experience pulsatile tinnitus.

How do you deal with tinnitus anxiety?

Some people may find relaxation techniques helpful for anxiety. Other people may respond better to medications or therapy. A doctor can provide information about ways a person can manage their anxiety as a result of tinnitus.

Pulsatile tinnitus is a rhythmic noise that someone hears. There may be a link between anxiety and pulsatile tinnitus, as many people with pulsatile tinnitus also experience anxiety. However, anxiety is unlikely to directly cause it.

Pulsatile tinnitus typically occurs due to an underlying condition, such as atherosclerosis or blood vessel disorders. Treating the condition may reduce pulsatile tinnitus symptoms. A doctor can recommend treatments for pulsatile tinnitus symptoms, such as therapy or hearing aids.