How Common Is Tinnitus in TMJ?

Ear-related symptoms are very common in TMJ. One study found that nearly 80% of people with TMJ also had ear-related symptoms. This study found that about 60% of those with myofascial pain disorder (MPD) had tinnitus. Other studies show an even stronger connection. One recent study looked at a sample of TMJ patients and found that although about 40% of people with TMJ had tinnitus, 94% of those with tinnitus had MPD. This study also found that people were more likely to experience tinnitus if they also had headaches. 

How Is TMJ Linked to Tinnitus?

woman experiencing ear pain ringingGiven that tinnitus is a poorly understood condition, we don’t have a definitive understanding of what links the two conditions. There are several explanations for the link, however. 

One is that TMJ leads to a sensitization in brain regions that are responsible for hearing. This causes the brain to become overly sensitive to nerve impulses, interpreting them as sounds. 

Another possible link is that TMJ might lead to pressure on parts of the hearing system. Since the temporal bone which houses the inner ear is half of the temporomandibular joint, it does experience excess pressure during many cases of TMJ. Or pressure could be put on the vestibulocochlear nerve as it runs from the ear to the brain. 

It could also be that the ancient evolutionary connections between the jaw and the ear cause these symptoms. Two of our tiny ear bones were jaw bones in our evolutionary ancestors, and they still retain some connections with jaw structures. 

Subjective vs. Objective: a Poor Distinction

Sometimes doctors will distinguish tinnitus into two categories: subjective and objective. Subjective is when a person reports but can’t be linked to any measurable phenomenon. Objective is when you report a sound that can be linked to a measurable phenomenon, such as a blood vessel pressing on your vestibulocochlear nerve. 

While this might seem a useful distinction, the truth is that many cases of so-called subjective are likely objective whose source phenomenon hasn’t been identified yet. 

Common “Treatments” for Tinnitus

Unfortunately, for most people with tinnitus, doctors don’t offer much hope in the way of treatment. People might be prescribed anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications. Or they might be sent to counseling. Sometimes they are given white noise or other masking devices to cover up the sounds. 

Sometimes these work, but they don’t really treat your tinnitus, but merely mask or help you cope with it. 

TMJ Treatment Can Help in Fort Atkinson

TMJ treatment, on the other hand, can help reduce or eliminate tinnitus if related to TMJ, treating the jaw dysfunction can lead to a reduction or even an elimination of your ear sounds. If you have tinnitus and other TMJ symptoms (such as headache), then you should be tested for TMJ. 

To learn whether your tinnitus is linked to TMJ, please call (920) 563-7323 today for an appointment with Dr. Stafford at Bite Align in Fort Atkinson, WI.