TMJ and Ear Symptoms

The ear is very close to the temporomandibular joint. In fact, the interior structures of the ear are housed in the temporal bone, which is part of the temporomandibular joint. It is not surprising, then, that ear-related symptoms are common in people with TMJ. Studies indicate that 60-80% of TMJ sufferers report ear-related complaints. The most common types of ear symptoms associated with TMJ are:

  • Ear pain
  • Tinnitus
  • Vertigo
  • Hearing loss

Ear pain may be associated with swelling and pressure from the jaw joint. It may in fact have nothing to do with the ear itself, but be related to the pain in the jaw.

Tinnitus and TMJ

There are several possible mechanisms that can link TMJ and tinnitus, ringing in the ears. Some think that TMJ causes inflammation of brain tissues that receive sound or those that interpret sound. This chronic inflammation may cause the structures to be deceived into thinking they’re hearing sound.

Second, TMJ might lead to irritation of the nerves that carry sound signals to your brain. These irritated nerves will pass the signal on to the brain, but because the brain is used to getting sound along these nerves, it might interpret the pain signals as sound in the same way it misidentifies referred pain.

Third, direct pressure from the temporomandibular joint or some of the tissues linking these two systems might disrupt the tiny bones in the ear, creating a sound sensation.

Hearing loss and tinnitus are closely related, so the same mechanisms that create tinnitus could also contribute to hearing loss.

Vertigo

Vertigo is when your body is getting different signals from its three balance mechanisms. One of these mechanisms is your vision. Another is your body’s sense of its position relative to the earth and itself through its awareness of pressure. Finally, there’s the canals of the inner ear, which contain small amounts of fluid, similar to the bubbles in a carpenter’s level. When these three systems are in disagreement, the brain doesn’t know whether it’s moving or staying still or even what its position is, so you feel off-balance and confused.

It’s possible that TMJ distorts the input from the ear’s canals in the same way it could create sound in vertigo.

If you are experiencing ear-related symptoms as part of TMJ, we can help. Please call (201) 343-4044 or email the River Edge Dental Center for TMJ, Sleep Apnea, and Reconstructive Dentistry today.