Listen Up!

Many music lovers and musicians, both young and old, are already aware that loud music can cause a buzzing or ringing in the ears.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, around 15 percent of Americans – more than 50 million – have experienced tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears that may be chronic and intermittent. Statistics from the CDC estimate that nearly 20 million Americans have chronic tinnitus, with 2 million individuals experiencing debilitating cases.

In some cases, tinnitus develops as a result of regular and prolonged exposure to loud music. According to researchers, everyone experiences tinnitus at times after a concert or other loud event, but in many cases, it is just temporary.

But, what about tinnitus that can’t be connected to a love of loud music?

About half of the adults living with temporomandibular joint disorder experience tinnitus. In fact, many individuals living with the condition believe their symptoms are caused by a problem in the ear; those people seek treatment for the condition, unaware that the problem is with their jaw.

‘If you have pain or ringing in the ear, you are probably going to think the problem is in your ear first and see your doctor or an ENT before you would go to your dentist,’ said Dr. Sean Endsley, a Waco, Texas, dentist.

How Is Tinnitus Related to TMD?

‘If there is pain in the temporomandibular joints caused by wear and tear on the joint or misalignment of the joint, it can cause pain receptors in the trigeminal nerve to kick off and cause pain in the ear,’ Endsley said.

Additionally, the nerves connected to the muscles that control the tiny bones of the ear also control the masseter muscles, or the chewing muscles. This connection means that any signal – including pain – sent through these nerves can affect the ear and the jaw.

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, researchers suspect many people with tempormandibular joint disorder, or TMD, are living undiagnosed.

‘The symptoms of TMD aren’t always clearly presented as a jaw-related problem. Tinnitus, ear pain, headaches, dizziness, and back and neck problems are all linked to the condition,’ Endsley said.

In many cases, these symptoms can lead patients down pathways of misdiagnosis.

‘For most people living with TMD, these pathways are frustrating or bring only temporary relief,’ Endsley said.

BBC News. Tinnitus: Warning for music fans attending concerts. 12 July 2019.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. TMJ Disorders.