TinnitusTinnitus & TMJ
Scientific studies have shown that people with TMJ disorders are more likely to suffer from tinnitus than the general population.
Our clinical experience confirms these findings: many of our TMJ patients in addition to pain in the face and jaw also report presence of ear symptoms, such as tinnitus, sensation of ears being blocked (or stuffy), ear aches, etc. In such cases, the ear symptoms typically improve or resolve once the jaw pain is successfully treated.
Why does TMJ affect Tinnitus?
- Two of the tiny bones that make up our present-day hearing system (the malleus and incus) evolved from the primitive jaw bones. These bones retain some of their muscular, fascial and ligamentous connections to the jaw. As the result of that, a dysfunction of the jaw muscles may affect ear function and lead to tinnitus, ear pain, dizziness, or feeling of ear fullness.
- Lateral pterygoid muscle and the adjacent tensor veli palatini muscle inside the mouth affect opening of the eustachian tube in the ear. These muscles are frequently tight and hypertonic in TMJ patients, causing (or contributing) to ear symptoms.
- There is some overlap between the nerve supply of the temporomandibular joint and the ears. The nerves that supply TMJ have connections to the parts of the brain that are involved with both hearing and the interpretation of sound.
- The eardrum is located in close proximity to the temporomandibular joint. Inflammation in the temporomandibular joint can either spread to the eardrum or affect stabilization of the eardrum, causing earaches and / or noise associated with tinnitus.
- If the lower jaw bone moves backwards, it may compress the ear canal, which can affect the function of the Eustachian tube. The nerves that run from the ear to the brain also may become impinged by displaced jaw bones, muscles or swollen tissues.
- Some myofascial trigger points located in the muscles commonly involved in the TMJ disorder either refer pain or alter sensation in the ear. The primary face muscles causing ear symptoms are lateral pterygoid and sternocleidomastoid.
- TMJ is frequently associated with a neck dysfunction. Studies have shown that patients who have neck disorders are more likely to experience tinnitus, therefore presence of both TMJ and neck dysfunction creates a greater risk for tinnitus and other ear symptoms than TMJ alone.