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September 12, 2023

What Is the Link Between TMD and Tinnitus?

Frowning older woman with tinnitus

Ringing in the ears, also called tinnitus, is an annoying problem. It could even become so distracting that it affects your mental health and quality of life. Some individuals with this condition become so downhearted that they commit suicide. While some cases of tinnitus are, sadly, untreatable, other cases are reversible via treatment for TMJ disorder (TMD). What exactly is the link between TMD and tinnitus? This blog post explains.

How the Jaw Joint Affects the Ears

The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) connects the lower jaw to the rest of the skull. The TMJ is right next to the ears, so when it and the surrounding muscles are stressed or injured, it might affect your hearing. This may happen because TMD can cause inflammation in the cochlea (the part of the inner ear that transforms sound waves into electrical impulses that the brain then interprets).  TMD might also contribute to damage to the tiny hair cells in the cochlea. Together, these issues can lead to tinnitus.

Is Your Tinnitus Caused by TMD?

Here are some indications that TMD might be to blame for your tinnitus:

  • There are no other likely causes for your tinnitus. For example, you should rule out causes such as exposure to loud noises or certain diseases.
  • Your tinnitus is severe. Many people with TMD report more severe tinnitus than those with a healthy jaw joint.
  • The tinnitus is more likely to occur after intense jaw activity. After you talk for a long time or eat a tough food, your tinnitus may worsen if it is linked to TMD.
  • The sound changes when you move your jaw. You might notice that the sound changes in pitch or volume when you move your lower jaw.

Of course, the only way to know for sure if your tinnitus is the result of TMD is to undergo a thorough evaluation by a qualified medical professional.

TMD Treatment May Help

Many patients with both TMD and tinnitus have found that their hearing improves after they receive treatment for their TMJ. Many dentists are intimately familiar with how the TMJ works and how to help it recover from stress and inflammation. For example, something as simple as an occlusal splint may be all you need to relax overworked facial muscles. Some patients need minor adjustments to their bite. In rare instances, surgery is necessary.

TMD and tinnitus are a troublesome combination! If you suspect your jaw joint is not healthy, seek appropriate treatment so you can find relief as quickly as possible.

Meet the Practice

Dr. James Olsen is a highly experienced dentist who uses the principles of neuromuscular dentistry to help patients conquer their TMD. If you frequently suffer from symptoms like jaw pain, difficulty chewing, tinnitus, and headaches, he can evaluate your situation and recommend your next steps. He offers multiple treatment options that have already proven to be effective for many patients — they may be able to help you as well. Contact our Ann Arbor office at 734-996-0200.

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