People who have tinnitus most often describe the condition as a ringing in the ears, but it can involve other sounds, such as buzzing, hissing, clicking, or roaring. Tinnitus manifests itself in a variety of ways, from soft noises that are a minor irritation to loud interference that can prevent you from sleeping – which can take a toll on your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. If you are experiencing tinnitus and you suffer from temporomandibular joint disorder (commonly known as TMJ), it’s possible that these two conditions are connected.
What is TMJ?
TMJ typically manifests as pain in the jaw, usually in the joint area. A decreased ability to open and close the jaw, or a clicking or popping sound when attempting to do so, accompanies the pain. TMJ also can cause chewing to become uncomfortable, even painful. The usual cause of TMJ is a misalignment in the jaw’s overall structure. Stress also may be a factor, because it can cause patients to clench their jaws or grind their teeth, putting excessive strain on the joint. An oral surgeon can usually provide relief through appropriate treatment.
What’s the TMJ connection to Tinnitus?
In many cases, the same people who experience TMJ have problems with tinnitus. The eardrum, which is involved in tinnitus, and the temporomandibular joint, the main joint involved in TMJ, are located in close proximity to one another. Inflammation in the temporomandibular joint can spread to the eardrum, which may result in the discomforts of tinnitus. In these types of cases, the tinnitus tends to disappear once the doctor has addressed the underlying TMJ.
Will I Need Surgery?
Some surgical treatments can effectively address TMJ and associated tinnitus, but patients also may consider nonsurgical treatment options. Some of these less-invasive treatments include non-steroidal medication, eating a diet of soft foods, or wearing a mouth guard at night to prevent teeth grinding, which is a common cause of both TMJ and tinnitus. If these nonsurgical options do not provide relief, a consultation with an oral surgeon is a good idea to discuss possible surgical treatment.
If you’re experiencing the discomfort and noise of tinnitus but do not have a TMJ diagnosis, it’s worth mentioning the tinnitus to your oral surgeon or dentist. Tinnitus often can be a symptom of TMJ, and treating the root cause of your discomfort can relieve the irritation of tinnitus and prevent joint damage and pain from TMJ.