Do you experience a tingling sensation in your ear sometimes accompanied by ringing and ear pain?
This condition is not limited to a medical problem, it could be a sign of certain disorders such as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
A temporomandibular joint disorder is often mistaken for a dental issue because of the similarity in symptoms. TMJ affects the jaw joints and muscles responsible for jaw movement, usually followed by pain in the face, jaw, and neck.
This dysfunction causes discomfort that may affect functionality and trigger new or underlying health problems.
How Does TMJ Cause Tinnitus?
Pain and discomfort from temporomandibular joint disorders may exacerbate tinnitus conditions. This is mostly because;
There are chewing muscles close to your middle ear. These muscles are inserted deep within the ear and are responsible for hearing functions. A misalignment or disorder of these jaw joints is likely to trigger tinnitus.
There are also ligaments linking the jaw joints to other hearing bones in the middle ear. A direct hit or physical trauma to these areas of your face can trigger ringing sensations and complications in your ear.
A lot of nerves surround your brain to help it function and send across messages to other parts of the body.
Nerve supply from the temporomandibular joints is also connected to parts of the brain involved in hearing and interpretation of sounds.
A slight issue in TMJ will affect the tinnitus condition.
What Is Temporomandibular Disorder?
TMJ, also known as the temporomandibular joint, is the area connecting the mandible or lower jaw to the temporal bone at the side of the head. It differs from other joints in the body.
A disorder of the TMJ affects the jaw joint and muscles that control jaw movement. It causes occasional pain and discomfort that is often temporary, occurring in cycles.
Pain does not signal serious problems and may eventually go away with little or no treatment.
However, some develop significant long-term symptoms. It is a condition that causes dysfunction of the jaw joint and chewing muscles response varies for each individual.
There are 3 categories of TMJ disorder:
- Pain or discomfort in the muscles responsible for jaw functions
- Internal derangement of the joints involving displaced disc and dislocated jaw
- Degenerative or inflammatory joint disorders
Some people may experience one or more concurrently and have other health problems along with it such as sleep disturbances, chronic fatigue, or painful condition of the muscles and soft tissues.
What Are The Symptoms Of TMJ?
Symptoms of TMJ disorders vary and change. For some, it may start and ease over time or improve after a few weeks or months. However, others may experience persistent and debilitating pain. This condition is more common among women than men.
Discomfort and radiating pain around the affected joints that restrict jaw movement. It may occur with headaches and pain in your face, jaw, and neck.
Change in teeth
Disorders may cause misalignment of your teeth, the arrangement becomes misplaced and odd fitting.
Dysfunction that limits functions and locking of the jaw may occur. It causes difficulty in turning your head and connecting joints.
You may develop stiff jaw muscles. This makes it hard to focus and carry out your daily routine. It may also affect functionality.
This includes popping, clicking, or grating sounds in the jaw joints. These sounds are likely to be more prevalent with activities, such as when opening or closing your mouth.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a soft or loud ringing in your ears. It may be like a buzzing, clicking, roaring, or hissing sound in one or both ears. This symptom sometimes shows a problem in the auditory system.
However, it may be because of other health conditions such as hormonal changes in women, noise-induced hearing loss, brain tumors, ear and sinus infections, heart or blood vessel disease, physical trauma to the head or neck, temporomandibular joint disorders, and neck misalignment. It can also be a side effect of medications.
Older people sometimes develop tinnitus as the first sign of hearing loss, individuals who work in noisy environments like factories or construction workers can experience it because of exposure to noise. Exposure to loud noise such as concert events can also trigger it.
Signs Of Tinnitus
The type of sound varies for each person. Some may experience a type of whooshing, hissing or roaring sound in one or both ears. It may be high or low pitched in a constant or intermittent phase.
Place of sound
There are two categories for the area of occurrence. It may occur in single or both ears, also known as Tinnitus aurium. It can also be prevalent in the head, this is called Tinnitus cranii.
Tinnitus can be as a pulsating sound with frequent recurrence. You may feel a tingling sensation, have a noise-like tone, or have no quality. It may begin suddenly and progress gradually.
There are two types of tinnitus;
- Subjective tinnitus, a common type mostly audible only to the patient.
- Objective tinnitus is a rare form. It is audible to both the patient and physician. This type can also be listened to by using a stethoscope or sitting near affected ears.
How Does Neck Problems Affect TMJ?
One of the common causes of temporomandibular joint disorders is head and neck injury from accidents or physical trauma. Persisting pain and discomfort in the neck can also aggravate disorders.
Individuals suffering from conditions like arthritis, which causes neck pain and stiffness, are more likely to experience tinnitus.
Research also shows that there is scientific evidence on how some nerves in the neck region are connected to hearing areas in the brain.
Therefore, it is possible for neck problems to affect this disorder. Most times, coexisting issues are more severe and may be linked with other health risks, such as headaches and depression.
Diagnosis Of TMJ
Diagnosis is largely based on individual physical examination, and medical history, with consideration of signs experienced. This is because TMD symptoms are not only limited to jaw movement, opening and closing of the mouth, and chewing functions.
Facial pain, ear discomfort, headache, jaw dysfunction, dizziness, neck, arm, eye, or back pain may also occur.
Imaging is another process carried out for in-depth knowledge of temporomandibular joint disorders. It is required to get additional information since there may be acute fractures, dislocations, and severe degenerative diseases.
A local anesthetic may be administered at trigger points to distinguish the source of jaw pain. To avoid complications, this procedure is only performed by a professional physician or dentist.
Treatment For TMJ
Over-the-counter OTC drugs are used for short-term relief from pain and discomfort. Anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen may provide temporary alleviation. Consult your doctor for a prescription to help ease symptoms.
Surgical procedures are often irreversible and only recommended in severe cases. A thorough diagnosis is required before surgery can be carried out. This is because of the risks involved and to determine if it is the only option available.
This includes artificial replacements for jaw joints. It may cause severe and permanent damage because the device may fail to work or function properly.
There are self-care practices you can adapt into your daily routine to help manage and ease symptoms. These include:
- Use of ice packs on the affected area
- Staying away from strenuous jaw movements like gum chewing, wide yawning.
- Change your diet to include more soft foods
- Practice stress management techniques
For People who have or develop hearing loss along with tinnitus. It improves ear functions and helps to control outside sound levels. The better you hear, the less likely you are to notice tinnitus.
Programs are available to help you cope and learn how to live with your tinnitus. It involves activities that help change the way you see and react to your tinnitus. It also involves routines to make noiseless noticeable, relax, and sleep better.
These wearable devices fit into the ear to emit soft pleasant sounds and mask tinnitus. Masking sounds can be a low volume, music, or random tone.
Antidepressants, anti-anxiety, and other drugs are prescribed by your doctor to improve your mood. They also help with sleep disturbances.
Tinnitus may be prevented by wearing earplugs and earmuffs to safeguard your ears, limit exposure to loud noise. If possible, avoid areas that are extremely noisy.
Temporomandibular joint disorders, as well as tinnitus when left untreated, can become detrimental and lead to various health risks. You can practice some self-care methods to manage these conditions, however, it is best to visit your physician or dentist for a proper treatment process. Contact your health center as soon as you notice debilitating changes in symptoms.