If you or a loved one have been hearing a constant thumping noise in one of your ears, or both, you may want to ask your doctor whether you could have pulsatile tinnitus. You may not have heard of pulsatile tinnitus before, but this cousin to regular tinnitus causes many people to hear pulsing sounds and can be frustrating to deal with, reducing your overall quality of life. Even more upsetting is the fact that while you can hear these sounds, nobody else can unless they get a stethoscope. Thankfully, there are some ways to identify whether this condition is what you have and to figure out what caused it. Here are three essential things you need to know about pulsatile tinnitus.

1. There Are Several Causes

When it comes to identifying what causes pulsatile tinnitus, there are several possibilities. Your doctor may be able to pinpoint which underlying condition may have been the cause. These conditions could include:

  • High blood pressure: having high blood pressure causes greater exertion of the blood against the artery walls, causing the blood flow to get louder as it moves through your body
  • Overactive thyroid: When your thyroid is acting up, it can impact your blood flow, causing it to speed up and result in louder sounds
  • Arterial problems: Another possibility is that there’s a problem with the connective tissues between your veins and arteries, making blood work harder just to get through
  • Atherosclerosis: When you have plaque buildup in your arteries, the space for blood to get through is narrower, causing a rushing sound

If you have any of these conditions and you’ve been hearing whooshing sounds, consult with your doctor to see if your condition may have resulted in pulsatile tinnitus.

2. There May Be Multiple Symptoms

If you’re not sure whether you have pulsatile tinnitus or something else, there are multiple indicatory symptoms you can check for. These include:

You may experience just one of these or several at a time. If your symptoms match the ones here, talk to your doctor.

3. There Are Two Types of Tinnitus

Surprisingly, there are actually two different types of tinnitus you could have. The first is subjective tinnitus, where you, the person experiencing it, is the only one who can hear the noise. In cases of subjective tinnitus, the condition is typically temporary and goes away, such as hearing pulsing sounds after attending a loud rock concert. The second type is objective tinnitus, where a doctor can hear the same sounds you’re hearing by listening through a stethoscope. While objective tinnitus may be temporary in some cases, there’s also the possibility of it being chronic, depending on what caused it.

Constantly hearing thumping or whooshing noises in one or both of your ears is not only frustrating, but can greatly impact your overall quality of life if left unchecked. If you have any of the underlying conditions or symptoms outlined here, you may want to ask your doctor whether you might have pulsatile tinnitus. Once correctly identified, it’s possible to get this condition effectively treated to reduce the noises, improve your hearing and get your life back on track.