Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Is it worrisome to hear a pulse in my ear?

Q. One morning last week I woke up hearing my heartbeat in my left ear. I hear it most clearly when I am in bed or sitting quietly. My health is good, and I was told after a recent cardiac workup that my heart was "perfect." Should I be worried that I can hear the rhythmic pattern of my heart from inside my left ear?

A. What you describe sounds like pulsatile tinnitus (pronounced TIN-nih-tus or tin-NITE-us). It is a type of rhythmic thumping or whooshing only you can hear that is often in time with the heartbeat. Most people with pulsatile tinnitus hear the sound in one ear, though some hear it in both. The sound is the result of turbulent flow in blood vessels in the neck or head. The most common causes of pulsatile tinnitus include the following:

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