Pulsating Noise in my head, not tinnitus, Vascular ?

For the past year I have been suffering a pulsating ( with my heartbeat) noise in my head, seen ENT had MRI of head, It is Not Tinnitus, saw a cardiologist, had echogramme, not that, Cardiologist suggested it may be a Vascular problem, my GP say's most people over 40 get this and persists in calling it Tinnitus though it is not.

This is a persistant high pitched noise that does pulsate to my heart beat it is on both sides of my head now and is driving me mad, cannot sleep when I do eventually drift off this noise will awaken me, I have high BP controlled with meds, diabetic back on metformin. When I even touch my head on the side of my head especially just above the cheekbone this noise is greastly worsened, my GP will not refer me for a Carotid Artery Scan nor to see a Vascular Dr, anyone any Idea's what on earth this might be, many thanks for any Info.

13 Replies

  • Sounds a bit like Pulsatile tinnitus


    Are you worried that it's a sign of an underlying illness? Do you have any other symtoms?

  • Hi thank's for you reply, I have to admit yes I am very worried as time goes by it is getting much worse. I am a diabetic, on Metformin, high BP though controlled with Amlodipine and Lisinopril, other syptoms are like a pain down my neck at times not a serioius pain but I know its there. When my GP sent me to a Cardiologist he said my GP had sent me to the wrong people and showed me on the letter my GP had sent that basiclly this person is at risk of a heart attack or stroke, Cariologist suggested I should be seeing the Vascular Dept, when I asked my GP to send me he said No most people over 40 have this risk ?? what can I do, I think I have a carotid artery problem but ?? what where would I do/go. many thanks for your reply.

  • Hi Lazz,

    Vasculitis is an auto immune disease which causes inflamation of the lining of the blood vessels so it doesn't sound typical for that.

    Has anyone listened to your carotid artery with a stethoscope to hear if there is a bruit ( whooshing sound which can indicate a blockage or stenosis )?

    A tactic I have found useful is to get your GP to record your concerns in your notes, their response to your concerns and their clinical rationale for not referring you to a Vascular surgeon. Do you feel your GP fully appreciates how worried you are about this? All patients with diabetes and high blood pressure should have their cardiovascular risk assessed. Is your cholesterol normal?

  • Hi,

    I saw a differant GP a few months ago, she was just about to qualify and their last 6 months are spent seeing paitents in a GP setting, after examination this GP brought a senior GP in, gave her what she thought, she Indeed did listen to my carotid artery, when this more experianced GP came In she did mention this bruit and said she though she had detected one, so the experianced GP listened, got me to breathe In hold my breath a few time's whilst listening to the carotid artery, she was quite clear No there was not a bruit. I have since been to hospital for an echocardiogram, which I was told when seeing a Cardiologist that the valves of the heart were fine and they discharged me from their dept, it is well known to my GP I suffer severe PTSD and depression for many years. I have asked on several occasions to be allowed a Carotid Artery scan / dopler sound scan, so far my GP say's no. My Cholesterol has always been quite low my last being only 2.5 however that is made up of 0,8 good Cholesterol and 1.7 the bad Cholesterol and it's always been this way for many years with more bad than good. My diabetes while not going away did drop and my meds were stopped for over a year, after that time I was re-checked only to find it had gone too high again and my meds restarted, at this moment they are not working, though wont know how bad till the next 3 monthly check. The only unexplained symptom I have is a quite brighjt red 2-3 inch band around the bottom of my neck, this blanches on pressing it. High blood pressure related ? my own GP says he has no Idea and the other GP's neither had seen anything like it and could offer no explanation. Could I thank you for answering me with this, I really do appreticate your time.thanks.


  • It sounds like pulsitile tinnitus. I have an underlying connective tissue disease and about three months ago developed quite severe pain in left side of neck, along with headaches and severe nausea that came and went which resulted in vomiting a couple of times. I didn't alert any of my specialists about this as most of the time the standard answer to new or increased pain is, "it's probably just migrartory arthritis. Anyway, I went for a jog about a month after all these symptoms started and list 70% sight in my left eye. Long story short, the neck pain, headaches and nausea was my carotid artery spontaneously tearing (it had 2/3 collapsed in on itself and the losing sight was a blood clot hitting my eye (mini stroke), and the main symptoms after that was the most awlf whooshing sound of blood pumping in my left ear which was the blood trying to get through the collapsed artery. This was all found on a brain MRI. Hope this helps.

    Cheers Ayesha

  • My Thank's Ayesha, Oh that sound's horrid, I so hope you are ok, and unfortunatly sounds just like what I am experiencing, I will make an attempt to see a differant GP and hopefully a second opinion may help get to the bottom of this problem, I also had the bloodclot into my eye causing a partial loss of vision top right of my left eye, this was almost a year ago, now healed and my vision is 6/6 but the opthalmologist did say, this could happen again at any time, but failed to give me a reason why it happend in the 1st place and it was after that episode that this noise in my head ( not in my hearing ) when I first told my GP about the neck twinges he also blamed arthritis. Thank's for you reply, I do appreticate you telling me what happend to yourself. I hope your ok, is there any treatment for such a problem like these ?

    Thanks again.


  • Hi Lazz,

    Sorry I have only just seen your message. The only treatment for carotid artery dissection was complete rest for 6 weeks after, like not allowed to do anything then had to take it easy for 6 months and am in aspirin for the rest of my life and that is it as my neurologist and rheumatologist were at a complete loss as why it happened in the first place. I do worry it's going to happen again as the pulsitile tinnitus is back. I hope you are doing ok.

    Thinking of you. Cheers

    Ayesha 🌞

  • Hi. I have GPA, a form of vasculitis which affects small blood vessels. One of my symptoms before diagnosis was a pulsating noise in my ears, it felt as if an army was marching in my head. However this was not high pitched and I also had other accompanying symptoms such as nosebleeds and nausea. Get it checked out though: you need to know what it is.

  • Definitely sounds vascular to me, and I get this sort of thing sporadically, not over a sustained period of time. However, the cheekbone thing makes me think it might be linked to sinuses, which is a problem for a lot of us. I had to have my sinuses drained one or two years before I was diagnosed with vasculitis, and still have sinus problems especially after a cold. The pulsating, or throbbing, in my head is sometimes very recognisable as a sort of swooshing sound as well, and sometimes sounds like the way you hear your heart in your head before you faint ...... my consultant did think she could detect a swooshing in the carotid arteries, but did not pursue it either. She is a rheumatologist. I think you should go a speak to a different GP for a second opinion.

  • I have been diagnosed with GPA (Wegener's disease) and one of my symptoms is an ongoing very low pitch noise in one ear, like a truck running idle, as well as a couple of tinnitus sounds in both ears. These get pulsatile when I am stressed and/or a new flare is about to begin, which usually culminates in vertigo.

    The good news, and I really want to stress this, regardless of what your finale diagnosis may be, our brain can be tricked to ignore these noises. Search for an experienced tinnitus therapist, good ENT experts will know someone. It takes a bit of time and perseverance but one day your brain will have been trained successfully.

    I still "hear" my ear noises, sometimes more than I want to, but only briefly. I know they are neither dangerous nor do they stop me from enjoying life.

    All the best.

  • Hi

    Fistly may I thank you for taking the time to reply as you have, that's very kind of you. Friday 12/08/ I get 3 reports ( copies ) sent to my GP;s from the Consultans 1. in particular is very worrysome. I have a few months ago had an MRI scan on my left sided head/ear, nothing abnormal was detected and I was dishcharged still with this horrendous noise, now having moved from mainly in my left side to both side's now, this noise is in my head it is not coming from my ears, .

    My GP thought this was definetly Tinnitus, I remained unconvinced and he sent me to see a ENT Consultant. He basicly found nothing.

    Now I also saw a Cardiologist he at the time said he thought I was seeing the wrong Dept he detected nothing wrong on his examination so arrange an Echogardiogram and a Holter device 3 days around my chest monitoring my heart beat, his report states over the 3 days that very rare Multifocul Ventricular ectopic beats also very rare Supraventricular ectopics non related to any event, IE on exercice, I have had these funny heartbeats since aged 14 so best part of 45 years, they come and go, I do think stress plays a large part but I dont know.

    This consultant agrees I am at high risk of a cardiovascular event stroke or heart attack.

    I am making attempts to see this GP as the consultant recommended I see a stroke consultant, my GP said No, his reason, most people over the age of 40 may suffer this type of Illness,

    Needless to say I am very disappointed at the lack of even an offer of seeing someone.

    It does appear still that this is something to do with vascular problem of my Carotid artery with a potential blockage, with persistant threat of a breakage of this obstruction causing possible very serious problems, all I am on is BP meds Lisinopril and Amlodipine plus asprin. I am still waiting for the result of the echo cardiogram although on a return visit to the Cardiologist although a differant one she dishcharged me as she said my echocardiogram was ok at the time of me having it.

    In the meantime the noise in my head is worse, if I touch my head above my cheekbone near my ear it quadruples ( The Noise ) . So am somewhat at a loss.

    I am hoping to see a differant GP next week.

    Again thank you to all who have so kindly responded to my questions, you are all very kind.


  • I am so sorry to read about your ongoing concerns and the lack of response from medical experts. When you see the new GP next week, maybe discuss the possibility of am MRA (Magnetic Resonance Angiography) as opposed to MRI.

    A MRA scan allows a more detailed imaging of blood vessels than an MRI, but targets blood vessels in particular. The procedure is basically the same.


    All the best.

  • Many thank's to you, this is very kind of you. If I can Just convince my GP to send me to a Vascular Consultant I feel sure they would as a matter of wanting to know themselves arrange such a scan, If not I have decided to try to have at least a carfotid artery scan privatly, saying this I would have no idea on cost. I do feel let down by my GP at the moment and I do wonder why he is against this course of action, instead of telling me most people who get this will most likely do so at my age.

    It is of course most worrying what the Cardiologist agreed with my GP that I was at "High Risk" of one of these events occuring, are there any treatments even ?, up to a year ago I had no symptoms of anything like this except for these ectopic he says very rare heartbeats which I still remember the very 1st one aged about 14 yrs old, they are not brought on by lifting or any excercise they just happen often many months in between.

    I saw my 1st Cardiologist in my late 20's with these strange heartbeats but nothing was taken serious, I was told I was not old enough, they never happend during any examination nor during a 24 hour Holter monitor test which I had on a couple of occasions when younger.

    I will hope another GP will agree to sending me to see the right people, my worry is my GP is the senior GP and may overule the other GP.

    Once again, my sincere thanks for your kind reply.


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