Veterans life insurance

ATM Disorders and Tinnitus: Relationship and Treatment

Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is widely associated with age-related or noise-related hearing loss. More and more evidence found that, in a smaller number of cases, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders may be a root cause of tinnitus instead of hearing loss.

People with subjective tinnitus hear disturbing sounds, such as ringing, buzzing, and buzzing, that are imperceptible to others. This condition becomes more common as people age and begin to lose their hearing.

In contrast, tinnitus associated with ATM disorders generally affects a younger population. It is also more common in people who were assigned female at birth than in those assigned male at birth.

In this article, we explore the link between tinnitus and TMJ disorders. We also discuss potential treatments that may provide relief for both conditions.

TMJs connect your lower jaw (mandible) to your skull on both sides of your face. These joints are located directly in front of your ears. Your TMJs support the jaw muscles needed for eating, yawning, and talking.

Causes of ATM Disorders

TMJ disorders are caused by inflammation or irritation of the ligaments and muscles surrounding the joints.

Potential causes include:

Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

Symptoms of TMJ disorders include:

  • clicking or snapping in the jaw
  • jaw and ear pain
  • headache
  • difficulty opening the mouth
  • jaws that lock in the open or closed position

A Systematic review and meta-analysis of several studies from 2018 found that the prevalence of tinnitus was higher in people with TMJ disorders than in people without TMJ disorders. This may be due to the proximity of the inner ear to the ATM.

A part of the inner ear called the cochlea turns sound waves into electrical impulses that the brain translates into recognizable sounds. Damage to the hair cells of the cochlea is a catalyst for tinnitus.

Since the cochlea is located next to the temporomandibular joint, irritation and inflammation of the joint can damage the cochlea and other parts of the inner ear. This can cause subjective tinnitus.

A research study 2019 found that TMJ and tinnitus often occur together in people who were assigned female at birth and who are younger than the average tinnitus patient.

Tinnitus in this group tends to be severe and accompanied by pain, pressure and high levels of stress.

Accompanying symptoms include:

  • dizziness
  • headache
  • fear of heights
  • neck pain
  • poor quality of life

Tinnitus related to TMJ disorders is sometimes called a type of somatic tinnitus. Somatic tinnitus is defined as tinnitus caused by a musculoskeletal problem.

Researchers involved in a study 2019 noted that people with tinnitus and TMJ disorders might constitute a specific subtype of tinnitus. Their reasoning was based on the responsiveness of this group to specific treatments.

A 2012 study noted that people with tinnitus and TMJ disorders were able to reduce tinnitus symptoms through head and jaw movements. Music and sound stimulation also had a beneficial effect.

Research data as far back as 1997 found that treating TMJ disorders helps relieve tinnitus in people with both conditions. However, recent studies suggest that further research is needed to confirm this link.

Even so, the Tinnitus Association of America supports the treatment of TMJ disorders to relieve tinnitus caused by joint problems.

Possible treatments for TMJ disorders

There are several types of treatments for TMJ disorders that can help relieve both tinnitus and jaw pain. These include:

TMJ disorders and tinnitus are difficult conditions that can negatively affect your quality of life. Whether you have TMJ disorders or tinnitus symptoms in one or both ears, talk to a doctor. This is especially important if you find it difficult to keep track of your daily activities or if you feel anxious or depressed.

Treatments exist for both tinnitus and TMJ disorders.

TMJ disorders are often treated by a dental professional. Talk to your current healthcare professional about the type of specialist best suited to treat your symptoms.

Research suggests that TMJ disorders are a cause of tinnitus in some cases. People with both conditions tend to be younger than the average tinnitus patient.

Individuals designated as female at birth also appear to be more affected by TMJ disorders and accompanying tinnitus than individuals designated as male at birth.

When tinnitus is caused by TMJ disorders, treatments specific to that cause can help alleviate the symptoms.

Talk to your doctor or dentist about potential treatments and which ones might be best for you.