Objective tinnitus is by far the least common form of tinnitus, affecting only 1% of all patients.
Objective Tinnitus Symptoms
Unlike with subjective tinnitus, where the annoying ringing, whooshing, buzzing, humming or roaring noises can only be heard by themselves, patients with objective tinnitus often experience a clicking or heartbeat sound that can be heard by others around them.
Objective Tinnitus Causes
This clicking or heartbeat sound you hear is often being generated by a change in blood flow in the large arteries and veins in the neck and base of the skull, as well as the smaller veins that are in your ear.
This change in blood flow can be caused by strenuous exercise or pregnancy, which can cause blood flow to increase dramatically in the body. The faster your blood flows through your body, the more sound it makes. Severe anaemia or an overactive thyroid gland have also been shown to increase blood flow enough to cause objective tinnitus.
However, the most common cause of objective tinnitus (AKA Pulsatile Tinnitus) is a condition known as atherosclerosis, in which natural aging, combined with a buildup of cholesterol and other deposits, causes the major blood vessels close to your inner ear and middle ear to lose some of their elasticity. This lack of elasticity prevents the blood vessels from expanding oh so slightly with each and every heartbeat, resulting in the blood having to be forced through the blood vessels, which makes it easier for your ears to detect the heartbeats.
There are also rare occurrences of a single blood vessel or a group of blood vessels experiencing increased blood flow that the rest of the body is not experiencing. This can cause objective tinnitus when that blood flow is occurring adjacent to the structures of your middle ear.
Another potential cause of this localized increased flow of blood could be due to a benign tumor known as an acoustic neuroma (AKA vestibular schwannoma). These tumors, although very rare, can cause the development of abnormal blood vessels which can result in objective tinnitus.
Objective Tinnitus Treatment
For a detailed list of objective tinnitus treatment options, please see our tinnitus treatment page.