How Common Are Ear Problems like Tinnitus in TMJ?

Ear problems are among the most common symptoms reported by TMJ sufferers. In some studies, about 78% of TMJ sufferers report some type of ear-related problem. The most common ear symptoms are:

  • Ear pain
  • Tinnitus
  • Vertigo
  • Hearing loss
Fortunately, TMJ treatment is also very effective on these conditions, with most people who have tinnitus and TMJ responding to TMJ treatment.

Ear Pain and TMJ

Ear pain is common in TMJ. When the temporomandibular joint is stressed, it puts pressure on the ear canal, which can cause pain. It also puts pressure on the temporal bone, which houses the ear, and can put pressure on the nerves that carry sensations from the ear to the brain. All of these could potentially be the cause of ear pain, or it’s possible that ear pain is actually joint pain being misinterpreted as ear pain.

Tinnitus and TMJ

There are many potential explanations for why TMJ causes tinnitus. It’s possible that TMJ disrupts some of the muscles that head into the middle ear because chewing muscles are much larger and directly adjacent to these small ear muscles. Sometimes, a ligament may even connect one of your ear bones to your jaw (your ear bones were actually jaw bones in our evolutionary ancestors). Or it may be that the nerve signals from jaw pain are disrupting your body’s ability to distinguish sound. The nerves from your temporomandibular joint feed into the center of the brain responsible for hearing, so you could literally be hearing your pain.

TMJ and hearing loss are commonly associated. It’s likely that the mechanisms linking tinnitus and TMJ are also responsible for TMJ-related hearing loss.

Vertigo and TMJ

dizzy woman sitting on couch holding her head while the room spinsVertigo and dizziness occur when your body gets mixed signals from its various balance inputs. Balance inputs include the inner ear’s vestibular system, information from your eyes, and your body’s sense of its position relative to itself (for example: my head is upright because I feel compression on my neck vertebrae).

The connection between vertigo and TMJ is even more mysterious, but it may relate to pressure on the temporal bone which houses the delicate vestibular system. Or it may cause pressure on the nerves carrying balance signals. Finally, it might just be causing an overload of the brain in the region responsible for balance.

If you are unhappy with ear symptoms that you think might be related to TMJ, please call (248) 480-0085 today for an appointment.