Thumping sound in ears like a ringing, rushing, whistling or birds twittering, commonly known as tinnitus, is often caused by an external source and not an issue in the ear itself. While the thumping sound in the ears is known as pulsatile tinnitus, it matches the rate of your heart beat. The sound may come and go, but when it is present you will hear a constant noise that does not regularly change in pitch or loudness. Learning about the different causes that can lead to this condition will help you determine how to properly manage your condition.
Causes of Thumping Sound in Ears
Typically, a thumping sound in the ear will match the rate of your heart. Checking your pulse while you are experiencing the sound will allow you to confirm this. After you determine the pace the thumping is occurring in, you can begin to narrow down what is causing the problem.
- Generalized increased blood flow: Quickly flowing blood makes more noise than blood that moves slowly throughout the body. Strenuous exercise, pregnancy, over active thyroid or anemia can cause the blood in the body to flow more readily, leading to a thumping noise in the ears.
- Localized increased flow: If a single blood vessels or a localized group of blood vessels is dealing with an increased rate of blood flow you can hear it in your ears. This is typically caused when the stapedial artery in the middle ear continues to have a strong level of blood flow. This vessel should close before birth, but in some cases it will remain functional. Tumors or areas pressing on the vessels in the ear can also lead to a thumping noise.
- Turbulent blood flow: Hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis can cause the blood flow near the ears to become turbulent. This will cause the blood flow in the ear to become noisy and disruptive, similar to the sound of rushing water.
- Altered awareness: Multiple conditions can cause altered awareness that leads to a thumping sound in the ears. You may develop heightened sensitivity that causes you to be more aware of the noise made by the blood vessels in the ears. As these auditory pathways become more pronounced, the rushing sound can become louder. Altered awareness can also occur when hearing loss begins to occur. As your body becomes less able to take in sounds from the outside, it becomes more conscious of the sounds that occur within the body.
- Miscellaneous: Benign intracranial hypertension can cause a thumping sound in the ears. This sound will be accompanied by headaches and visual disturbances and is more common in middle aged women than other groups. This condition may also be referred to as idiopathic intracranial hypertension or pseudotumor cerebri.
Diagnosis of Thumping Sound in Ears
The first step in diagnosing the cause of a thumping sound in the ear will be to discuss your medical history with a trained physician. Your doctor will go over any conditions that may be affecting your ears or the cardiovascular system to help narrow down what might be causing you to hear a thumping sound.
After your doctor has learned about your history they will perform a basic examination of the eardrum and the blood vessels in the neck to check for any irregularities. Your doctor may use a stethoscope to listen to the blood flow in localized vessels to determine if it is particularly loud or irregular.
Your doctor may perform additional tests to get an image of the inside of the ears to help narrow down the cause. Pregnant women will often have an ultrasound done to ensure that the increased sound in the ears is caused by your baby and not an underlying condition. CT scans, an MRI, CTA scans, an MRA and angiography scans can be used to get a clear picture of the blood vessels in the head to ensure that no underlying conditions are causing a change in the blood flow, leading to the thumping noise you have been hearing.
Treatments for Thumping Sound in Ears
In most cases, tinnitus will not be treated. As long as the sound is not extremely bothersome, and damage to the hearing organ or surrounding blood vessels may not be able to be treated effectively. Your doctor will work to eliminate any life threatening conditions from the list of potential causes to ease your peace of mind.
- Slow blood flow: In the case that the sound is impairing your ability to hear or is extremely bothersome your doctor may opt to prescribe treatment. In some cases, antidepressants can be used to slow the blood flow so the thumping sound in your ears will stop. Relaxation techniques can also be used to help ease stress that can speed up blood flow. You may also need to eliminate items such as caffeine or aspirin that will increase your level of blood flow.
- Avoid stimulants: Some patients also find that addressing their hearing loss can help them eliminate the bothersome thumping noise in the ear. Avoid exposing yourself to loud noises or stimulants that will increase the hearing loss you have been experiencing.
- Wear hearing aid: You can also begin go wear a hearing aid that will allow you to return focus to sounds in your environment, eliminating the amount of impact the natural sounds within your body can have on your consciousness.
- Apply other machines: Others find that surrounding yourself with white noise such as a fan, white noise machine and others can help you tune out or eliminate your awareness of the thumping sound in your ears.