Taking Care of Tinnitus
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus represents a sensation of buzzing and ringing in the ear. Some people may as well describe it as clicking or roaring in their ears. Tinnitus can develop in a single or both of your ears and the intensity might vary from soft or loud. Depending on the severity of this condition, for some people tinnitus represents just a minor discomfort, while for others it can be quite frustrating, preventing a proper sleep or functioning normally during the day. Tinnitus is a quite common disorder, affecting ten percent of Americans, who experience tinnitus for a period longer than three months.
Causes of tinnitus
Tinnitus is not a disease. It is just a symptom suggesting that something is wrong with your auditory system. The underlying issue might be hidden in the ear, nerves that conduct auditory sensation or the brain, where sensations are being processed. Additionally, tinnitus might arise from conditions associated with joints and muscles in your jaw. The experts are still not entirely sure what is the exact underlying mechanism of the development of tinnitus, however, the conditions that may lead to tinnitus are well recognized. A huge variety of health issues can produce tinnitus, ranging from hearing loss, trauma, medication side effects, all the way to high blood pressure. Therefore, diagnosing the underlying cause of tinnitus can sometimes be a lengthy process.
The temporomandibular joint is small, however, a powerful joint responsible involved in many functions such as speaking, chewing, swallowing and smiling. Recent scientific findings are suggestive that there is a link between tinnitus and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD). This disorder is most frequently caused by injuries to the temporomandibular joint. It may take a lot of time after experiencing trauma until the first signs and symptoms of TMD appear. Tenderness in jaw muscles is also one of the frequent causes of tinnitus. This type of ear ringing is defined as somatosensory tinnitus. Up to half of the patients that have a TMD are prone to develop tinnitus. Interestingly, many of individuals who suffer from somatosensory tinnitus report that they can modulate the intensity of their tinnitus by simply moving their jaw. Luckily, in these patients, there is a high success rate of eliminating tinnitus (up to 90%). Following treatment, chances for tinnitus to reoccur are very low.
Diagnosis of TMD
The diagnosis of TMD requires an evaluation performed by a trained expert in treating facial and neck pain. The process begins by taking a detailed patient’s history. Patients that experience tinnitus may also have other signs or symptoms that are associated with temporomandibular joint dysfunction. This may often include headaches, eye or face pain, occasional blurred vision, episodes of hearing loss, sore throat, dizziness, teeth grinding or difficulty swallowing. A detailed examination of face and neck and sometimes additional imaging techniques should be performed in order to successfully diagnose the underlying problem that led to the development of tinnitus.
Treatment of tinnitus should focus to eliminate the underlying cause that led to the development of ear ringing. The proper diagnosis of the cause of tinnitus is essential in order to propose an adequate treatment. When the exact diagnosis is established, treatment of tinnitus should not represent a problem. If there is a problem with temporomandibular joint or jaw muscle stiffness is diagnosed, management of tinnitus is relatively simple and is followed by very high success rates. You can also improve your tinnitus by practicing relaxation of face and neck. The treatment that was proven to be most effective in treating somatosensory tinnitus is wearing stabilization splints. This treatment option represents a simple and very effective solution to eliminate your tinnitus and manage other symptoms that you may experience with jaw muscle stiffness such as teeth grinding or jaw pain.
Tinnitus might be a quite annoying problem, causing that you cannot properly relax or sleep. Dr. Burke and Dr. Williams know the solution and can help you eliminate tinnitus, bringing back again the balance and proper relaxation to your life. If ear ringing bothers you, contact our office for a consultation, and let us take care of this buzzing sensation.
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Dr. Mark G. Williams
Dr. Dale Burke
4450 Cordova St.
Anchorage, AK 99503
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