TMJ disorder: A personal story
I recently had a patient with TMJ disorder (TMD) come in to the clinic with ringing in her ears. “I’ve tried everything,” she stated with discouragement, “I’ve seen my doctor and he said there’s nothing wrong with my ears. But I can’t get rid of this dang ringing!” 1 hour later, after a little bit of jaw mobilization and dry needling of a few jaw muscles, her ringing was gone. Most importantly, it hasn’t returned. How is this possible? How can TMJ work fix ringing?
What causes ringing in my ears?
Well, let’s first state that there are multiple causes of ringing in the ears. More seriously, any space-occupying lesion (a physical block) can be enough to elicit ringing in the ears. Infections and irritation in the auditory system can also cause ringing. Therefore, make sure you head to your primary care physician to rule out any serious issue that needs a stronger intervention than conservative care.
What happens when you do go to the physician’s office and get no results? Time to explore different causes of ringing in the ears, AKA tinnitus.
Anatomy of the TMJ (temporomandibular joint)
Before we get started: time for a quick anatomy lesson! There’s a muscle in the jaw called the lateral pterygoid that is connected to the ‘eardrum’, and has been since the jaw was developed at birth. Similar to a real drum, when this muscle is tight, it pulls on the drum, increasing sensitivity and discomfort. If the pull is great enough, it can cause ringing in the ear!
How do I reduce tension in my jaw muscles?
The goal, then, is to reduce tension on this muscle to decrease the tension on the drum. That will restore proper tension in the ‘ear drum’ itself and reduce the ringing. That makes for one happy patient.
If you are experiencing ringing in the your ears and are struggling for relief, reach out to us at Glackin Physiotherapy, LLC and Physical Therapy to reduce tension in your jaw musculature! Reach out at our contact page, at Brendan@glackinpt.com, or leave a message at (908) 328-3074.
Brendan Glackin, DPT, CSCS, CMTPT
Dutton, M. (2012). Dutton’s Orthopaedic examination, evaluation, and intervention (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Medical