As we’ve mentioned previously in these blog articles on TMD or TMJ Disorder, people who suffer from this condition often face a confusing diagnosis process. Often, TMJ disorder causes many symptoms which can seem completely unrelated, such as neck pain, jaw pain, hearing loss and ear pain. While sufferers may see many different specialists, thinking that these symptoms are comorbid (unrelated yet simultaneous), a trip to the dentist often reveals the interrelated nature of every issue.
One common symptom of TMJ Disorder is Tinnitus. Tinnitus (TIN-ih-tus) is noise or ringing in the ears and is relatively common, affecting about 1 in 5 people. This annoying condition can cause the following symptoms, or “phantom noises,” in sufferers:
There are many ways that a person can develop Tinnitus and one of the main causes is TMJ Disorders. Problems with the temperomandibular joint, the joint on each side of your head in front of your ears, where your lower jawbone meets your skull, can cause Tinnitus.
This article shares recent medical research into the issue as well as diagnosis and treatment options available from a TMD specialist.
Current studies and trends on Tinnitus and TMJ Disorder
A recent study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that “there is an increased risk of tinnitus in patients with temporomandibular joint (TMJ)” disorder. The study analyzed data from health insurance claims obtained from Taiwan National Health Insurance (TNHI) using patients who were 20 years and older and who had been newly diagnosed with TMJ disorder.
The study found that this cohort was 2.73 times more likely to also suffer from Tinnitus and that they were 3.22 times more likely to experience the onset of Tinnitus within three years of their TMD condition. Further, this same study found that TMJ sufferers are 2.51 times more likely to experience hearing loss, a condition that we cover further in the next section of this article.
Recent studies on TMJ disorder causing hearing loss
Often, of course, people who suffer from TMJ Disorder don’t discover the root cause of their many symptoms until a medical professional “backs into” the diagnosis using all the information available. TMJ Disorder is often the “silent cause” of multiple conditions and one of the many symptoms of TMD is hearing loss.
Consider this study from the NCBI:
A 73-year-old woman had a four-month history of debilitating hearing loss and a watery sensation in her ear without obvious causes. She had consulted with an otolaryngologist who cleared the ear of all middle ear pathology and then placed ventilation tubes in the tympanic membrane to relieve her symptoms of ear fullness. The ventilation tubes did not produce long-lasting relief so she was referred to a dental clinic.
The dentist discovered that the woman did not have substantial symptoms of jaw dysfunction or jaw pain and was clearly more bothered by her ear symptoms. Yet, she exhibited all of the classic signs of TMJ Disorder: limited jaw range of motion, cracking or popping in the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and severe pain when the dentist touched her jaw joints.
The dentist took a panoramic radiograph and maxillary computed tomography scan and discovered moderate degenerative changes in the jaw joints.
Treatments included physical therapy (stretch and thermal packs), a full-arch stabilization splint, a trigger point injection, and a TMJ injection using triamcinolone acetonide (20 milligrams).
Of note: this woman was suffering from hearing loss and her doctor treated her ears for the discomfort, but it took a TMJ specialist to determine the true cause of her hearing loss.
See Your Dentist
If you are experiencing Tinnitus or hearing loss, you should find a dentist in your region who has been trained to diagnose and treat TMJ Disorders. You may discover that the pain and suffering that you’ve been treating with no relief may actually have a different cause. TMJ Disorders are treatable and can result in improved quality of life due to the many symptoms that treatment may relieve. Finding a nearby specialist is as easy as entering your zip code and contacting the TMJ specialized dentist nearest to you.