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Can TMJ Problems Cause Tinnitus?

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What are TMJ Disorders?

Temporomandibular (TMJ) disorder is a dental disorder where a person suffers from constant ear pain or tinnitus. The TMJ is located on both sides of your face and connects your lower jaw (mandible) to your skull. The TMJ provides the necessary support for the jaw muscles needed for speaking, eating and yawning.

Causes of TMJ Disorders

The temporomandibular joint combines a variety of sliding actions. Inflammation or irritation of the ligaments and muscles surrounding the joints can cause irregularities in the sliding actions which lead to TMJ disorders. Pain from TMJ disorders is caused by the erosion of the small shock-absorbing disk which keeps the movement smooth, damage to the joint’s cartilage or physical injury of the joint. Potential causes for TMJ include:

In many cases, the cause of TMJ disorders is hard to diagnose.

Symptoms of TMJ Disorders

Signs of TMJ disorders may include:

  • Pain or tenderness of your jaw
  • Pain in one or both of the temporomandibular joints
  • Aching pain in and around your ear
  • Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing
  • Aching facial pain
  • Locking of the joint, making it difficult to open or close your mouth
  • Clicking or popping sound in the jaw
  • Headaches

How Are TMJ and Tinnitus Connected?

tinnitus tmj symptoms


Tinnitus is characterised as a persistent and distracting ringing in the ears. Tinnitus may be caused by a number of factors including hearing loss, sudden exposure to loud noises and blockages in the ear canal. Tinnitus can be temporary, but causes for permanent tinnitus are common. One of the symptoms of TMJ disorders can be tinnitus and this often leads to confusion between the two conditions. People often treat tinnitus separately from TMJ disorder and neglect to treat their jaw which is causing the problem.


The temporomandibular joint is in close proximity to the inner ear. The cochlea is a part of the inner ear that transforms sound waves into electrical impulses that the brain can interpret as recognisable sounds. Damage to the hair cells in the cochlea can lead to tinnitus. If the TMJ gets irritated and inflamed, because of the close proximity, the joint may damage the cochlea and other parts of the inner ear.


TMJ tinnitus sounds like a high-pitched ringing sound, or even a clicking, buzzing, roaring or hissing sound. The sound may change as you open and close your jaw, which can be an indication that your TMJ disorder and tinnitus are linked. Symptoms to watch out for if you suspect your TMJ disorder and tinnitus are linked can be:

  • Jaw pain
  • Headaches
  • Tooth wear
  • Neck pain

Can Treating TMJ Disorder Improve Tinnitus Symptoms?

Somatic tinnitus is tinnitus that’s caused by a musculoskeletal problem. Tinnitus caused by TMJ disorders is sometimes referred to as a type of somatic tinnitus. This is because of people's responsiveness to specific treatments. Treating TMJ to alleviate tinnitus symptoms that are caused by problems with the joint is recommended by the American Tinnitus Association. Head and jaw movement, as well as music and sound stimulation, is known to improve symptoms of this type of tinnitus.

How to Tell the Difference between Tinnitus and TMJ?

People that suffer from arthritis are more prone to having TMJ disorders. Constant jaw pain is an indication that you may have TMJ disorder. If you think you may have TMJ tinnitus, visiting the dentist is the best way to tell if your tinnitus is caused by TMJ disorder. Treating TMJ disorder will probably lessen tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus of this type is usually accompanied by high levels of stress, pain and pressure. Some of the accompanying symptoms include:

  • dizziness
  • headache
  • vertigo
  • neck pain
  • poor quality of life

If you don’t regularly experience jaw pain, it’s unlikely that your tinnitus is caused by TMJ disorder. This narrows down your diagnosis to regular tinnitus.

Can TMJ Treatment Cure Tinnitus?

tmj tinnitus treatment

With the right TMJ treatment, you can greatly improve your tinnitus symptoms and even cure tinnitus. Going to the dentist for a check-up to pick the right treatment for you is crucial if you want the most effective treatment for dealing with TMJ disorder and TMJ tinnitus. Treatments for TMJ disorders that will improve and/or cure tinnitus include:

  • Medications, such as muscle relaxants and antidepressants
  • A soft food diet
  • Dental treatments, including bite realignment
  • Mouth guards to prevent tooth grinding
  • Oral splints to realign the eardrum
  • Physical therapy to stretch and strengthen jaw muscles
  • Corticosteroid injections into the joint
  • Minimally invasive surgical procedures, such as arthrocentesis
  • Arthrotomy (open joint surgery)