Can I have both TMJ pain and tinnitus at the same time?

Can I have both TMJ and tinnitus at the same time?

Great question! Let me break it down with the following blog. Hang with me as we have to define some concepts!

First, tinnitus:

Tinnitus is defined is the perception of sound in the absence of an acoustic external stimulus. To a person, this correlates to a bothersome auditory perception of noise.

There can be many reasons why an individual has these symptoms. A subtype of subjective tinnitus is called somatosensory tinnitus.

Second, TMJ pain:

The Temporomandibular Joint (TM) is a subset of a larger umbrella term for pain in the orofacial region.  Therefore, we now use the term, Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD).

TMD is defined as a group of disorders involving the masticatory muscles, the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and the associated structures.

Pain, jaw movement restriction, and acoustic effects, including popping and clicking in the joints, are considered the classic triad of symptoms of TMD.

So, can I have TMJ pain and tinnitus at the same time?

TMD-related tinnitus is considered to represent the somatosensory type of tinnitus. Just like the cervical spine (i.e. neck) is related to the jaw, TMJ and comorbid tinnitus can exist.

The prevalence of both conditions (tinnitus and TMJ pain) has been found to be 10% (Kijak et al 2020) to 30% (Manfrendini et al 2015).

Therefore, yes, you can have both tinnitus and TMJ at the same time!

One of the main theories attempting to explain the association between otological symptoms (i.e. tinnitus) and TMD assumes that TMD results are either from excessive mechanical pressure on the discomalleolar ligament or from direct strain on the auriculotemporal nerve.

A 2020 study by Kijak et al 2020 concluded that the location and type of petrotympanic fissure may be a predisposing factor for tinnitus, especially in patients with TMD.

Just like it is not uncommon for someone to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol that gives rise to heart disease —- it is not uncommon for a patient who has TMJ and tinnitus to have comorbid symptoms!

We see this everyday in our practice —- and quite honestly, we see most individuals who do have somatosensory tinnitus from TMJ have not only headaches, but also dizziness and/or vertigo and neck pain. This is why it is important to seek out individuals who are able to examine and treat all systems!

What can be done to help me?

The actual origin of the symptoms is best determined by a medical professional, but if you haven’t had a thorough cervical, vestibular and/or TMJ examination —- which is not uncommon if only seen neurologists — then this could be a part of your solution.

In addition to determining how the jaw works for TMJ pain, we find an evaluation of muscular disorder in cervical region seems to be necessary for assessment and treatment of dizziness and tinnitus symptoms. If the evaluation can show cause-effect, then great, there are solutions to these problems! If not and the evaluation rules out the TMJ, this is helpful too and can move on!

Physical Therapists play a major role in the prescription of exercise for treatment of TMJ and neck conditions. We can examine the muscular and neural systems to figure out the source of symptoms (in this case, the neck / jaw / inner ear) and provide solutions of manual therapy , exercise and even vestibular therapy.

If you are looking for a physical therapist who specializes in these systems, feel free to contact us, click on one of our e-books above or sign up for an appointment to start your recovery!