In most cases, hearing a thumping sound in your ear that’s in rhythm with your heartbeat during exercise is benign. However, there are serious causes that need to be ruled out.

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Thumping Heartbeat in Ear During Exercise.
When this Is Nothing to Worry About.

“The carotid artery and jugular vein (the main blood vessels from and to the head and back) pass extremely close to the ear,” says Gene Liu, MDMMM, and Chief, Division of Otolaryngology, Cedars-Sinai Medical Group.

“When the heart is pumping faster and harder from exercise and your blood pressure goes up, it is not unusual to hear your heartbeat in one or both ears,” continues Dr. Liu.

“In some people, the bone that separates these blood vessels from the ear can be very thin, or even missing a piece, and the heartbeat can be heard more easily.

“If this is the case, it is not dangerous and nothing needs to be done.” The fact that it’s in synch is not indicative of any pathology.

Thumping Heartbeat in Ear During Exercise.
When It’s Pathological.

“In rare situations, some people can have plaque building up in the carotid arteries that causes the flow of blood to be more turbulent and create more noise,” says Dr. Liu.

“This can lead to serious health issues such as a stroke. This can sometimes be diagnosed with just a stethoscope, and other times requires an ultrasound of the carotid arteries.

“Other abnormalities of the blood vessels, such as an aneurysm or AVM (arteriovenous malformation), can also present with the sound of your heartbeat in your ear.”

• Aneurysm: bulge in a blood vessel
• AVM: tangle of abnormal blood vessels

“Ultimately, most cases of hearing your heartbeat in your ear is not going to be anything serious,” says Dr. Liu.

“However, if this is something that you are noticing, you should see a doctor just to be sure. This is especially true if you can hear your heartbeat even when you are not doing anything strenuous.”

Dr. Liu’s clinical areas of focus cover a broad range including surgery of the head and neck, sinuses and thyroid, and disorders of the ears, salivary glands and vocal cords.