Listen Up

More than 50 million Americans are living with a form of tinnitus.

Commonly known as ringing in the ears, this condition often impacts an individual’s quality of life. Some statistics show that the disease affects one in every 10 adults across the nation, and episodes, on average, can last more than three months.

Most people affected by tinnitus are older, but some younger people can experience the ringing, roaring, hissing, screeching, sirens, static, whooshing, ocean waves, buzzing, dial tones and even music caused by tinnitus.

The causes of the condition can include age-related hearing loss, repeated exposure to loud noises, ear wax buildup, the side effects of some medications, high blood pressure and temporomandibular joint disorder, or TMD.

TMD is a condition that affects the temporomandibular joints, also known as the TMJs. These joints are located on either side of the skull right in front of the ear. When these joints become damaged, this can mean jaw pain, problems opening and closing the mouth, reduced range of motion when opening and closing the mouth, problems chewing, popping and clicking, teeth grinding, ear pain, and tinnitus.

Researchers believe that between 5 and 12 percent of the U.S. population experiences TMD. The most common causes of the condition include age, stress, injury, arthritis, genetics, and tooth grinding and clenching.

So, what’s the connection between TMD and tinnitus?

Many researchers think the connection between the two is caused by the proximity of the TMJs to the ears. When the ligaments and muscles of the jaw become inflamed, it affects the ears and nerves of the ears that are associated with hearing and sound interpretation.

Individuals affected by TMD are at three times greater risk of developing tinnitus than those who do not.

‘Many patients living with TMD report ear problems,’ said Dr. Sean Endsley, a Waco, Texas, dentist who regularly sees patients living with TMD.

Ear problems such as the feeling of ear fullness or pain often cause individuals to go to the doctor or ear, nose and throat specialist for evaluation to no avail.

‘This can be frustrating, as there is nothing visibly wrong with the ear such as an ear infection,’ Endsley said.

Those who suffer through unexplained ear pain related to TMD often go through years of suffering without treatment for their condition.

‘When this happens, the jaw joints get worse, and those who suffer from tinnitus may experience hearing loss as a result,’ Endsley said.

Source: Hola! Arkansas. 7 February 2020. Tinnitus and TMJ: What’s the Connection?