What is the Connection Between TMJ and Tinnitus?
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders are commonly associated with the development of tinnitus. Although rare, individuals with TMJ will sometimes develop a constant ringing on their ears, or tinnitus, due to overstimulated tensor muscles adversely affecting the inner ear. Treatment for TMJ and tinnitus is generally dependent on alleviating the TMJ symptoms. During the interim, however, tinnitus symptoms may be managed with the use of medication and noise suppression techniques.
Individuals generally develop TMJ and tinnitus when their temporomandibular joint becomes damaged due to injury or disease. It is not uncommon for individuals with systemic conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, to develop TMJ symptoms as the result of joint degeneration. Regardless of the cause, joint damage associated with TMJ can cause affected muscles to work overtime, creating sensitivity and tenderness in the inner ear, especially the Eustachian tube. The constant overstimulation of the affected muscles can result in a persistent ringing or high-pitched sound.
A diagnosis of TMJ is generally confirmed with the administration of imaging tests, such as a computerized tomography (CT) scan and X-ray, to evaluate the extent of joint damage. Those experiencing tinnitus symptoms may undergo additional testing, including a hearing test, to determine the severity of their condition. In some cases, a dental assessment may also be performed if the individual is presenting with dental issues that may either be induced by or causing his or her TMJ and tinnitus symptoms, such as ill-fitting dentures or tooth grinding.
Individuals with TMJ will usually experience facial discomfort, an impaired ability to bite and chew, and headaches. Aside from the grating or clicking noise that frequently accompanies temporomandibular joint disorders, individuals with TMJ and tinnitus symptoms will experience a persistent hissing, buzzing or ringing sound in the affected ear. Some individuals with TMJ and tinnitus may have discomfort in the head and neck area, as well as episodes of vertigo and ear discomfort.
When TMJ is the underlying cause for tinnitus symptoms, and the condition is moderate to severe, a variety of treatment approaches may be utilized. Some individuals may undergo corrective surgery to mend or restore the temporomandibular joint so it may function normally. Prescription strength corticosteroidal and analgesic medications may also ease inflammation and discomfort. Various approaches may be used for alleviating tinnitus symptoms, including the use of white noise machines and antidepressant medications. Some individuals may also find relief with the use of masking devices that emit a low-level tone that helps to curb auditory symptoms.
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