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What Does It Mean When You Hear Your Heartbeat in Your Ear?

Have you ever been aware of the sound of your heartbeat in your ear when you lie in bed at night? Find out what causes this condition and what you should do about it.

Have you ever heard your heart beating in your ear? This symptom may first be noticed when lying down to go to sleep at night. When you place your head on the pillow, you’re aware of the swishing sound of your own heart beating in your ear. For some people, the sound makes sleep impossible. Sometimes the heartbeat in the ear can be heard on one side only; less commonly, it can be heard in both ears. What causes the strange symptom and is it cause for concern?

Hearing the Heartbeat in the Ear: What It Means

The official medical term for the rhythmic swishing of the heart beating in the ear is pulsatile tinnitus. Like garden variety tinnitus, or ringing in the ears of the continuous type, the causes of pulsatile tinnitus are varied. Unlike continuous tinnitus that’s usually not due to a serious medical condition, pulsatile tinnitus can more often be a sign of a health problem and needs evaluation.

What Are Some Causes of Pulsatile Tinnitus?

Pulsatile tinnitus can sometimes be due to problems with blood flow through one of the arteries or blood vessels that lie near the ear. In some cases, it can be a symptom of an AV malformation which is an abnormal communication between blood vessels. This is a serious condition since the vessel can rupture leading to a stroke. Tumors, usually benign, located somewhere in the ear canal or in the skull can also cause pulsatile tinnitus. In some cases, hearing the heartbeat in the ear can be the first sign of atherosclerotic disease – a condition caused by plaque formation in the carotid arteries. This, too, can lead to stroke. In rare cases, pulsatile hypertension can be caused by hypertension. There a variety of other potentially serious causes of pulsatile tinnitus that are less common, but these examples illustrate the potentially serious nature of this symptom.  

Is Pulsatile Tinnitus Always Serious?

Not always. When fluid builds up in the middle ear for any reason such as infection or allergy, it can cause pulsatile tinnitus. Another condition called patulous eustachian tubes can amplify the sound of the heart beating in the ear. This condition occurs when the eustachian tubes, the tubes connecting the throat and the ears, which are normally closed remain open. A person with this condition not only hears their own heartbeat, but when they talk they may perceive the sounds to be muffled. This condition is often seen in people who lose a great deal of weight over a short period of time.

What to Do About It

Anyone who hears the sound of their own heartbeat in their ear needs evaluation by a doctor. In many cases, an MRI will be necessary to look for tumors or AV malformations. An ear exam can be done to look for fluid in the middle ear. In some cases, no cause for pulsatile tinnitus will be found and the symptom will disappear as quickly as it came.

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  1. Thank you for the info

  2. good article about an unknown subject! thanks

  3. nice article

  4. good one

  5. Hi, I am a sufferer of pulsatile tinnitus. It’s extremely difficult to live with these symptoms and it can be just as difficult to get a proper diagnosis. There is an online support site at http://www.whooshers.com for people experiencing pulsatile tinnitus. It’s much easier to get help and to cope when you know you’re not alone, so if you or someone you know suffers from this, please visit us!

  6. Hi. I had a bad sinus infection in January and this swishing sound started in my ear. I was on a strong antibiotic for it and it did nothing. It goes to my hearbeat! My blood pressure is good. I hear this annoying sound all day and when I lie down at night. I finally go to an ENT at the end of this month. I am ready to get this taken care of!

  7. hi Kristie, I am from triond. This article was very informative as i have this problem. Good work Kitty

  8. My husband has this problem and he’s been seen by three ENT doctors. Not a single one had an answer for us!

  9. if you gys get desperate go to russell briggs in cedar park texas (near Austin) he is amazing ENT who knew what i was talking about right away and knew what it was. (bundled nerves)

  10. Sherri what did your dr suggest to do?

  11. OMG…HAD THIS SINCE CHILDHOOD…..THOUGHT IT WAS NORMAL!

  12. Hi this sound is the worst I can’t take it.. It almost makes me think I’m crazy..

  13. I have been noticing this myself when I lay down…I just thought it was part of my charm. :)

  14. hey guys …

    i what do because i wasnt lieing down i was plaing on my laptop on well sitting on the sofa and your heart usaly goes like this beat 1 sec later beat and so on but i heared my heart go beat every milla second
    please respond

    btw im only a kid cant spell very well

  15. Hi I got out of the shower and i sat down and i started hearing this swishing like thing in my right ear and right ear only i cleaned my ears out with cuetips..should i be concerned? if it happens again? It could probably mean i got water in it but idk it never does this…

  16. I went to a school dance and there was loud music.When it stopped I heard the swishing in my ear.It’s annoying.

  17. I went to a school dance and there was loud music.When it stopped I heard the swishing in my ear.It\’s annoying.

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