“All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 30 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Pulsing In The Ear (Pulsatile Tinnitus) - Anxiety Symptoms

Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: December 8, 2019


pusling in the ears anxiety symptoms image

Hearing a pulsing, throbbing, whooshing, or your heart beat in your ear is a common anxiety disorder symptom, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety attacks and panic disorder, and others.

To see if anxiety might be playing a role in your anxiety symptoms, rate your level of anxiety using our free one-minute instant results Anxiety Test or Anxiety Disorder Test. The higher the rating, the more likely it could be contributing to your anxiety symptoms, including pulsing in the ear.

This article explains the relationship between anxiety and ear symptoms, including hearing a pulsing, throbbing, whooshing, or your heartbeat in your ear or ears.

Anxiety pulsing in the ear common symptom descriptions:

  • There is a pulsing, throbbing, or whooshing sound in one ear or both ears.
  • For no apparent reason, you hear your heart beating in your ear or both ears.
  • This sound is also often described as a swishing, swirling, swooshing, or beating sound either in the ear or “behind” the ear.
  • Sometimes this pulsating sound can be accompanied by sharp shooting pains or a dull ache or throbbing pain.
  • This pulsing sound can also be accompanied by a “ticking” sound or sensation.
  • This pulsing sound can also be accompanied by a “ringing,” “hissing,” or persistent “tone” in your ear or ears.

This pulsing in the ear symptom can affect one ear only, can shift and affect the other ear, can migrate back and forth from one ear to the other and back again, and can affect both ears at the same time.

This pulsing in the ear symptom can come and go rarely, occur frequently, or persist 24/7. For example, you have a pulsing in the ear once in a while and not that often, have it off and on, or have it all the time and every day.

This symptom can precede, accompany, or follow an escalation of other anxiety sensations and symptoms, or occur by itself.

It can also precede, accompany, or follow an episode of nervousness, anxiety, fear, and elevated stress, or occur "out of the blue" and for no apparent reason.

This pulsing in the ear symptom can range in intensity from slight, to moderate, to severe. It can also come in waves where it’s strong one moment and eases off the next.

This symptom can change from day to day and from moment to moment.

All of the above combinations and variations are common.

This symptom can seem more disconcerting when undistracted, resting, doing deep relaxation, when trying to go to sleep or when waking up, or when the environment is quiet.


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Why anxiety can cause pulsing in the ear symptoms

Medical Advisory

There can be many reasons why anxiety can cause this pulsing in the ear symptom. Two of the most common are:

1. Stress response

Behaving anxiously activates the stress response, also known as the fight or flight response. The stress response causes body-wide changes that prepare the body for immediate emergency action.[1][2]

Visit our “Stress Response” article for more information about the many changes caused by the stress response.

Some of the changes caused by the stress response include:

  • Heightening our senses, including our hearing.
  • Shunting blood from parts of the body less important for emergency action, such as the stomach and digestive system, to parts of the body more important, such as the brain and muscles.
  • Increasing neuronal activity in the nervous system.
  • Increasing blood pressure.

Any one or combination of the above stress response actions can cause a “pulsing” sound or sensation in the ear or ears.

2. Hyperstimulation

When stress responses occur infrequently, the body can recover relatively quickly. When stress responses occur too frequently, however, such as from overly apprehensive behavior, the body can’t complete its recovery.

Incomplete recovery can cause the body to remain in a state of semi stress response readiness. We call this state “stress-response hyperstimulation” since stress hormones are stimulants.[3][4]

Hyperstimulation is also often referred to as “chronic stress,” “hyperarousal” or “HPA axis dysregulation.”

Visit our “Hyperstimulation” article for more information about the many changes caused by hyperstimulation.

Hyperstimulation can cause similar changes to an active stress response even though a stress response hasn’t been activated.

Hyperstimulation is a common cause of re-occurring or persistent pulsing in the ear symptoms.

Many people notice this symptom when they are stressed. Consequently, it is a common symptom associated with chronic stress.

3. Other possible contributing factors include:

We explain these factors in more detail in the Recovery Support area, including why it can take a long time to recover from hyperstimulation and what you can do in the meantime.

How to get rid of anxiety pulsing in the ears symptoms?

When this symptom is caused by the other contributing factors, addressing the cause of those factors will eliminate this anxiety pulsing in the ear symptom.

1. End the stress response

When this anxiety pulsing in the ear symptom is caused by apprehensive behavior and the accompanying stress response changes, calming yourself down will bring an end to the active stress response and its changes. As your body recovers from the active stress response, this anxiety symptom should subside.

Keep in mind, it can take up to 20 minutes or more for the body to recover from a major stress response. This is normal and shouldn’t be a cause for concern.

If you are having difficulty ending anxiety or the stress response, chapters 5, 6, and 7 in the Recovery Support area have many sections on how to do this.

2. Eliminate hyperstimulation

When this anxiety symptom is caused by hyperstimulation (chronic stress), such as from overly apprehensive behavior, it can take much longer for the body to recover, and to the point where this anxiety symptom subsides.

Nevertheless, recovering from hyperstimulation will bring an end to symptoms of hyperstimulation, including a pulsing sound or sensation in the ear or ears.

Chapters 3, 4, 6, 7, and 14 in the Recovery Support area have information about how to recover from hyperstimulation, including why it can take so long and what you can do in the meantime.

3. Therapy

Unidentified and unaddressed underlying factors that cause issues with anxiety is the number one reason why anxiety disorder and its symptoms persist.

This is why dealing with your anxiety issues is the most important work overall if you desire lasting freedom from anxiety disorder and its symptoms.

Keep in mind that eliminating anxiety symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve overcome issues with anxiety. Anxiety symptoms are symptoms of stress. Eliminating anxiety symptoms means you’ve eliminated the unhealthy stress that is causing your symptoms.

However, if the underlying factors that cause issues with anxiety disorder aren’t addressed, it’s often just a matter of time until the body is chronically stressed and symptomatic again.

Rebounds of symptoms and a return to a struggle with anxiety disorder are caused for this very reason: the core issues that cause anxiety disorder haven’t been successfully addressed.

To eliminate issues with anxiety and symptoms once and for all, we need to eliminate the cause of problematic anxiety – the underlying factors that cause issues with anxiety.

When you eliminate the cause of the problem, you eliminate the problem and it’s symptoms.

Working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to addresses anxiety’s underlying factors.

All of our recommended therapists are professionally trained, and have experienced anxiety disorder, have successfully overcome it, and are medication-free. Their years of personal and professional experience make them an excellent choice to work with on the road to recovery.


 



The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.


Additional Resources:


Return to Anxiety Disorder Symptoms section.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and therapy for anxiety disorder and its symptoms, including pulsing in the ear.


REFERENCES:

1. Selye, H. (1956). The stress of life. New York, NY, US: McGraw-Hill.

2. Folk, Jim and Folk, Marilyn. “The Stress Response And Anxiety Symptoms.” anxietycentre.com, August 2019.

3. Folk, Jim and Folk, Marilyn. "Stress-response Hyperstimulation." anxietycentre.com, Nov. 2019.

4. Teixeira, Renata Roland, et al. “Chronic Stress Induces a Hyporeactivity of the Autonomic Nervous System in Response to Acute Mental Stressor and Impairs Cognitive Performance in Business Executives.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2015.