If you’ve been dealing with frustrating and sometimes debilitating ringing, buzzing, or humming in your ears and haven’t been able to find relief, it’s time to consider the possibility that your temporomandibular joints (TMJs) are playing a role. As Orofacial Pain specialists, we’re experts at dealing with jaw-related problems. We understand your challenges and how they could be negatively affecting your life, and we’d like to provide you with some clear and understandable information that can help you determine if TMJ is involved with your symptoms.
You’re Not Alone.
According to a 2022 systematic review published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), more than 740 million people worldwide experience tinnitus. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that over 25 million Americans (10% of the U.S. adult population) suffer from some form of the condition.
Here’s How Tinnitus and TMJ Can Be Linked
Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound that doesn’t have an external source. It is most likely to affect people ages 45 years old and older. And, while tinnitus can have various causes – such as noise exposure, medication use, infections, and even head trauma – there’s a lesser-known possibility: a connection between tinnitus and TMJ.
An intricate relationship between your ears and jaws sheds light on the possible connection between tinnitus and TMJ. Specific structures in our ears and jaws develop simultaneously from similar tissues, which has led researchers to believe that issues with temporomandibular joints and the muscles and ligaments that control them, may have an effect on the ears and contribute to tinnitus symptoms.
Is Your Tinnitus Linked To TMJ? – 5 Questions
To determine if your tinnitus symptom TMJ may linked to TMJ, answer these 5 questions:
- Does the intensity or character of your symptoms change from one day to the next?
- Do your symptoms change when you open or close your mouth or move your jaw forward or back?
- Does chewing food affect the intensity of your tinnitus?
- Do your tinnitus symptoms change when you clench your teeth?
- Do your symptoms worsen when you turn or tilt your head?
What To Do Next
If you answered yes to one or more of the above questions, we have some good news for you: There is hope for relief! Here’s what to do next:
Step 1: Rule out any serious medical conditions that could be contributing to your tinnitus. If you haven’t been seen by an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) doctor, make that appointment first.
Step 2: Look for a board-certified TMJ and Orofacial Pain specialist in your area (instructions below). The field has been growing rapidly since the addition of Orofacial Pain to the list of specialties approved by the American Dental Association in 2020.
Board-certified orofacial pain specialists like the professionals at our practice have dedicated their careers to helping patients who suffer from the effects of TMJ. We have completed advanced training, have many years of experience, and attend courses to stay on the cutting edge of new research and treatment.
When a specialist evaluates a patient, no stone is left unturned to determine that best treatment plan. We take into consideration the patient’s medical and dental history and ask what’s going on in their life. Why do we want to know what’s going on in a patient’s life? Because it is believed that stress can lead jaw over-use behaviors, such as teeth grinding and clenching.
Your treatment plan may include one or more of the following:
- Behavior Changes: Here, you become aware if you are grinding or clenching your teeth during the day, then work to reduce the daytime over-use behaviors so your jaws can relax.
- Exercises: Special jaw exercises designed to stretch your muscles can help alleviate symptoms.
- Muscle Therapy: Therapies such as trigger point injections or dry needling and BOTOX® can relieve overstressed jaw and neck muscles.
- Physical Therapy: Many physical therapists are now trained in techniques to manage and reduce TMJ symptoms.
- Oral Appliances: Also called mouthguards or teeth protectors, oral appliances are beneficial to reduce the effect of teeth grinding that can contribute to symptoms.
If you’ve been suffering for a while and are under the care of an ENT, you may be using approaches such as sound therapy. The treatments above work in tandem with other treatments, and new methods, including deep brain stimulation and repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation, show hopeful promise for the future.
Conclusion: The Tinnitus Link To TMJ Should Not Be Overlooked
The possible connection between your tinnitus symptoms and TMJ should not be overlooked. Now that you understand the intricate relationship between jaws and ears and have answered the 5 key questions above, you’re ready to take proactive steps toward finding relief. You don’t have to be alone on this journey; solutions are within reach, and the care of an Orofacial Pain Specialist could be the turning point you’ve been waiting for.
To find an Orofacial Pain specialist in your area, search by city or state here: American Academy of Orofacial Pain. Look for a member that has “Diplomate” status
If you live in the New York City metropolitan area, New York TMJ & Orofacial Pain has a location near you. To make an appointment, click here.