What is the Connection Between TMJ and Tinnitus?
Ringing in your ears. Anyone who’s had a temporary medical condition, gotten an injury from a fall, or even watches action movies, are familiar with the sound. This is the sort of thing that happens to almost everyone temporarily. However, imagine it being something that happens for years. Also, your jaw is popping, cracking and locking up while this is all happening? The two of them sound unrelated to someone who has never undergone those things at the same time. However, a TMJ specialist will tell you the two of them are related.
TMJ disorders affect 10 million Americans, most of which are women, and while it certainly ranges in severity, it can be an aftereffect of something much worse, like rheumatoid arthritis. It is only recently that people within the medical community are finding more about its connection to other medical issues. After all, we are still looking into the source of TMD. Tinnitus and TMJ disorders are surprisingly connected with one another. In fact, 50%to 60% of TMD patients suffer from some form of tinnitus. What is their connection? What do the TMJ specialists have to say on the matter? Let’s find out.
Our Bones and Connected Anatomy
Interesting factoid. In utero, when we are still developing, our earbones and jawbones were the same bone. According to a news publication ” As the embryo grows, these bones separate.” However, even if the bones separate, that connection never once severed. Our anatomy has a nerve that keeps that connection between the jawbone and them malleus. The malleus is a small bone that involves the vibrations of our ear bones.
And this isn’t just in humans. In fact, it is a trait that belongs to mammals as far back as the Jurassic period. This is described beautifully by a 2013 anatomy publication, “The incorporation of the primary jaw joint into the mammalian middle ear was only possible due to the evolution of a new way to articulate the upper and lower jaws, with the formation of the dentary-squamosal joint, or TMJ in humans.”
This mutation is advantageous because it helps us hear better and gives us a better range of motion. According to Wikipedia, “Once these bones were no longer involved in the jaw joint, variations which affected hearing would not also affect jaw joint function, and this allowed unconstrained evolution of the mammalian hearing apparatus.” In plain speak, it just means that the separation of the bones and its reconnection with tissue makes it easier for us to hear more frequencies and move our jaw sideways.
But what does that mean for treatment? How much can TMD treatment fix the tinnitus issue?
The Success of Splint Therapy for TMD and Tinnitus
Tinnitus can happen when you’re there is excess stress on the TMJ. The way that you can know for sure if the cause of your tinnitus is something wrong with your TMJ is to test out if there are any changes in the sound you are hearing when you move your jaw. If you move your jaw or head and you can’t hear any changes, then chances are the tinnitus you are experiencing is a sensory issue. However, if you are experiencing any changes, then it is most likely something that can be cured with treatment for TMD.
A TMJ specialist can treat those jaw alignment issues with an occlusal splint. These splints are a standard method of treatment for disc displacement. The splints are temporary and are made for a gradual change in bite over time.
It’s explained quite well in the Journal of Dental Sciences,” The patient should wear it 24 hours a day for the first 4 weeks, then wear it while eating and sleeping for the next 2 weeks, and wear it only while sleeping for the last 2 weeks. Patients must understand that the success of treatment depends on their compliance with the regimen.”
Essentially, if you are going through the sound of ringing in your ears and jaw pain, there is a good chance that it is out of alignment, and it will take time and treatment to put your mouth back to its proper anatomical place.
How effective is it? Very. ” Fortunately, approximately 90 percent of these patients were able to successfully reduce their tinnitus tone with treatment.”
So, if you are experiencing a problem with hearing a phantom noise, and you are feeling something is wrong with your jaw, do not hesitate to call a TMJ specialist. You will be glad you did.