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Is it normal to hear your heart beat in your ear?

The answer, as usual in medicine, it depends!

The first thing you should ask yourself is what kind of sound do you hear exactly?

- Because hearing Keanu Reeves whispering something in your ear requires a prompt visit to a psychiatrist.

- Hearing high-pitched hisses, lower-pitched buzzing sounds or clicking is a completely different issue; this condition is called tinnitus and might require a visit to the otologist.

- The medical term used for hearing heart beat sounds in the ear is pulsatile tinnitus.

When should you visit your doctor?

Most of the time, pulsatile tinnitus is nothing to worry about. You should visit your doctor in case this sound doesn't go away on its own or intensifies. Although rarely but it can be a symptom for a serious condition.

What causes the pulsatile tinnitus?

1. Ear infection or allergy

Both infection and allergy can cause fluid accumulation in the middle ear and this can cause pulsatile tinnitus.

Treat the infection or the allergy and the tinnitus will go away.

2. Conductive hearing loss

This is when you have a plug in your ear that is blocking the sound waves from entering the ear, as a result you will hear less from the outside and more internal head noises ( i.e. breathing, chewing, and blood flowing through the ear). So the blood has not changed its course but the conductive hearing loss makes it easier to hear it flowing through the blood vessels near to the ear.

In this condition the pulsatile tinnitus will go away as soon as the hearing loss is corrected.

3. High blood pressure

Think of the blood as water passing through a hose when you increase the pressure the water starts to make sounds as it passes through the hose. Similarly when the blood pressure is high, blood flow through the arteries close to the ear is more likely to be turbulent and to generate the pulsatile tinnitus.

Controlling the blood pressure often improves the pulsatile tinnitus.

4. Carotid artery disease

This blood vessel passes close to the ear. As any other artery in the body fatty buildup might accumulate inside it creating turbulent blood flow. This can cause a pulsating sound.

This condition might need a surgical intervention.

5. Blood vessel disorders

These include an abnormal connection between an artery and vein called AV malformation, twisted arteries, or a blood vessel tumor.

When you visit your doctor, he will examine your ear canals and listen to the blood flow through the vessels in your neck. He will be looking for unusual blood sounds. If he hears these sounds, you'll likely need a test to look for a narrowing or malformation in your vessels and to determine how bad the narrowing is. Also a simple hearing test is usually done.

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