What Does it Mean When Your Doctor Can Hear Your Tinnitus?

By Barry Keate
Barry Keate, has lived with tinnitus over 40 years and has published 150+ research articles on numerous aspects of tinnitus. He is an expert on the condition and a well-known advocate for those with tinnitus.

Doctor Can Hear Your Tinnitus

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Tinnitus is a ringing, rushing, clicking, booming, hissing, or buzzing sound in your ears. The noise isn’t from an external source that other people in the same room can hear; it is an internal symptom of another physical condition. Tinnitus falls into two categories: subjective and objective.

Two Types of Tinnitus

Subjective tinnitus is a noise that no one but you can hear. It happens when something is out of balance in your body and your brain receives sound signals where there are no sounds. It starts with vibrations of the ear’s tiny bones, which vibrates tiny nerves in the inner ear. Each tiny nerve responds to a different frequency and transmits that data to the brain through the auditory nerve. If any of those processes are interrupted or a nerve is damaged, the signal gets corrupted, and you hear a ringing in your ears.

Objective tinnitus has an underlying physical cause as well. In the majority of cases, objective tinnitus, also known as vascular or pulsatile tinnitus, is the result of turbulent blood flow in vessels and tissues near the ear. It may sound like a whooshing or thumping sound in rhythm with your pulse.

You may have experienced this phenomenon after a run or particularly taxing workout. When your heart is beating hard, you may hear your pulse in your ears. You hear your pulse because the blood in your carotid and jugular blood vessels moves through the vessels with greater force than normal. Bones and soft tissue around your head and neck conduct the sound to your ears. The sound triggers normal ear function even if no one in the same room can hear it. The increased blood flow is also loud enough that a doctor’s stethoscope can pick it up. Thus, your physician can also hear what you hear.

Causes

Strenuous exercise: As with the running example, any strenuous exercise that gets your heart pumping can cause tinnitus symptoms. As your body returns to a neutral, resting state, the sound goes away.

Vascular conditions: Several vascular conditions can cause tinnitus.

  • Elevated blood pressure: High blood pressure can have the same effect as strenuous exercise, making the pulse audible to both the patient and the doctor.
  • Arteriovenous malformations: Blood vessels get tangled and bypass normal tissues. Formed before or just after birth, most people never have symptoms. However, sometimes, it can affect blood flow in the head and along the spine, which can cause tinnitus.
  • Aneurysms: A weakening in the blood vessel wall can cause it to bulge or swell creating an aneurysm and altering the sound of the blood traveling through the vessel. Aneurysms can be caused by atherosclerosis or elevated blood pressure, among other things, and can be life-threatening.
  • Atherosclerosis: Plaque buildup in the blood vessels changes how blood flows through them, making blood flow audible.

Eustachian Tubes: These tubes open and close to normalize pressure as you travel to higher or lower elevations (your ears pop). If the mucosal lining swells, it can make it difficult to hear and may cause tinnitus symptoms.

Soft Palate: Involuntary muscle contractions at the back of the mouth can be audible.

Trauma: Injuries to the surrounding bones or tissues can cause tinnitus, depending on the location and extent of the damage.

Tumor: Abnormal growths can interfere with blood flow, create pressure against the inner ear’s workings and obstruct normal ear function.

Should You Seek Medical Attention?

An audible pulse may indicate a serious health condition. If the sound comes with exercise and stops when you rest, however, it may not be a concern. However, if tinnitus symptoms last longer than that, you want to see your provider. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Tinnitus may be the symptom that saves your life because you got an early diagnosis and could treat the problem sooner. There are many conditions that can cause objective tinnitus, and many of them require medical treatment, so it is wise to consult a healthcare professional to determine what is causing the sound you hear.

How Do You Treat Tinnitus?

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your symptoms. If they’re caused by high blood pressure, for example, then lowering your blood pressure should relieve your symptoms. If they don’t go away, you may have more than one underlying cause. Every underlying cause must be addressed. The sooner the underlying cause is fixed, the sooner you can get on with life.

While you’re narrowing down the cause of your tinnitus symptoms, you can create an inner environment that promotes healthy ear function.

Natural supplements for tinnitus: Herbs like high-grade ginkgo biloba for ear ringing have proven helpful in encouraging nerve conductivity and regeneration.

Vitamins to help tinnitus: Vitamin B and zinc are major components in nerve health. Deficiencies in these two nutrients can actually cause tinnitus.

Stress Management: Sometimes, lowering your blood pressure has more to do with reducing or managing your stress levels than medication. Yoga, meditation, and repetitive movement exercises (like walking, running, or swimming) can help you lower or burn through stress hormones, so you feel more balanced.

Getting to the Root

If you notice tinnitus symptoms, it’s best to go see your provider. They can tell you what kind of tinnitus you are experiencing, subjective or objective, and help you find the root cause. Only then will you be able to treat your tinnitus and get symptom relief.