What is the link between TMJ disorders and tinnitus?

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Research suggests that TMJ disorders may cause some cases of tinnitus.

Tinnitus, a condition in which one experiences a ringing in the ears, is often linked to hearing loss in old age. Aside from ringing in the ears, tinnitus can also cause a buzzing or humming sound.

Research suggests that in some cases, TMJ disorders could actually be a cause of the condition. While the condition is generally more common with advancing age, it may affect younger people when it is caused by a TMJ disorder. So, what exactly is the link between these two issues?  

What are TMJ disorders?

TMJ disorders are generally caused by inflammation of the ligaments and muscles around the temporomandibular joints. These joints connect the lower jaw to the skull on the sides of the face and are located in front of the ears.

There is a wide range of possible causes. These include teeth grinding, trauma to the neck or head, a bite-related issue, arthritis that affects the jaw, and dislocation of the TMJs.

What is the connection between tinnitus and TMJ disorders?  

Studies suggest that there is a higher prevalence of tinnitus in individuals who suffer from TMJ disorders than in those who don’t. Although more research is needed, this may be because of the location of the TMJ in relation to the inner ear.

The cochlea, a part of the inner ear, works by converting sound waves into electrical impulses that are then translated into sounds by the brain. When the tiny hair cells in the cochlea are damaged in some way, it can often lead to tinnitus.

The cochlea is located very close to the temporomandibular joint, so when this joint becomes inflamed or irritated, the cochlea and other areas of the inner ear can be damaged. This, in turn, could lead to tinnitus.

What are the symptoms of tinnitus?

Most commonly associated with a ringing, humming, or buzzing in the ear that cannot be heard by anyone else and is not caused by any exterior source of a sound, tinnitus can also cause a number of other symptoms.

These include dizziness, headaches, neck pain, and vertigo. All of these symptoms can affect one’s overall sense of well-being and quality of life quite considerably.

Can tinnitus be treated along with TMJ?

When a case of tinnitus is connected to a TMJ disorder, it is known as somatic tinnitus. It is a type of tinnitus caused by a musculoskeletal issue. Some research suggests that the symptoms of both tinnitus and TMJ disorders may be reduced with certain movements and exercises of the head and jaw, while some treatments performed specifically to resolve TMJ disorders may also help to alleviate the symptoms of tinnitus. However, it is important to understand that more research is required in this field.

How are TMJ disorders treated?

When it comes to the treatment of TMJ disorders, there are a number of possible options that may provide relief both from the disorder itself and the symptoms of tinnitus. These include dental treatment, in which any bite-related and jaw alignment problems are addressed; the use of mouthguards to reduce the effects of tooth grinding; oral splints that can help to realign the eardrums; physical therapy to stretch and strengthen the jaw muscles; and the use of muscle relaxant injections. 

Ultimately, the treatment plan that best suits one’s needs will depend on the cause of the disorder that needs to be addressed.

How can we help?

If you are struggling with a TMJ disorder and you suspect that the issue is affecting your ears, we encourage you to come in and see us. We understand that many of the symptoms associated with TMJ disorders can have a serious impact on one’s quality of life, and our team is happy to help alleviate your discomfort.

To find out more about our range of services or to book an appointment, please contact us here or give us a call on (03) 9417 4038.