Tinnitus is a medical term used to describe ‘ringing in ears’. It is a condition where the affected person can hear sounds that seem to come from inside the head when there are no external sounds.(1) Tinnitus can be experienced in one or both ears. Though it is defined as ‘ringing’, it may not always be ringing. Sometimes, it is hissing, clicking, roaring or buzzing sound which may be low or high pitched; loud or soft.(2)
What is Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ)?
The temporomandibular joint is a complex joint system that helps in opening and closing of the jaw, and also in back and forwards and sideways movement of the jaw. The TMJ works with the help of strong muscle and is at risk of developing joint issues like other joints in the body.
Association Between Tinnitus and Temporomandibular Joint
It is not uncommon to see that individuals who have TMJ issues experience tinnitus. Individuals who may have sustained a neck injury in the past can also experience tinnitus. People with history of TMJ issue or neck injury can alter the intensity of the ringing in ears with certain movements of the jaw, face, mouth and neck.(3) Based on this, certain jaw exercises are recommended for management of tinnitus.
There are 3 theories that explain the possible cause of tinnitus from TMJ issues. These are explained below briefly:
- The muscles of the TMJ that help in chewing are very close to some other muscles that insert into the middle ear. As a result of which TMJ issues can effect hearing and cause ringing in ears.
- The ligaments of the TMJ are directly connected to the hearing bones of the middle ear.
- Another possible cause is because the nerve supply of the TMJ has connection with parts of the brain that interprets sounds and control hearing.
It is important to note that, TMJ issues can not only lead to tinnitus; it can also exaggerate pre-existing tinnitus (which may have aroused due to other reasons unrelated to TMJ).
Jaw Exercises for Tinnitus
If tinnitus is caused due TMJ issues, treating the TMJ issues will solve the problem of tinnitus. A problem in the TMJ causes/aggravates tinnitus, and thus certain exercises of the jaw and TMJ can also help in reducing the symptoms of tinnitus.(4) The most common jaw exercises recommended for management of tinnitus are listed below:
1. Max Opening of Jaw:
Open your mouth to the maximum possible. Then hold the chin with your hand and gently open it wider manually. A pressure will be felt in the jaw joints. Hold this for 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat this in sets of 4 at least 4 times a day. However, if this feels uncomfortable or painful, do not do this jaw exercise for tinnitus.
2. Assisted Opening as a Jaw Exercise for Tinnitus:
This jaw exercise for tinnitus is very similar to Max Opening exercise described above. Open your mouth wide to the maximum possible. Now with 2 index fingers placed over the lower front tooth, push the jaw downward such that the jaw opens even wider. Hold this for few second. Repeat this jaw exercise for tinnitus in cycles of 10, 2 or 3 times a day. As with other exercises if it feels uncomfortable or painful, stop immediately.
3. Midline Exercise
Stand in front of a mirror in biting position. Keep an eye on the position of the lower front teeth on the lower jaw. Now slowly open the mouth ensuring that the position of lower teeth remains in line and does not sway to the left or right side. Repeat this jaw exercise for tinnitus in sets of 10 for couple of times a week.
4. Lateral Movement
Keep your jaw in relaxed posture with mouth slightly open. Now move your lower jaw to the right to the maximum possible. Take your left hand, make a fist and push the jaw to the right further and hold for 30 seconds and then relax. Repeat this on the other side as well. This needs to be done in sets of 4 about 4 times a day. Do not do this if it feels painful or uncomfortable.
5. Feel Good Teeth Tap
This jaw exercise for tinnitus can be done as much as needed any time. It is recommended to do this when one feels tensed or stressed. It is done by holding the mouth in a smiling posture with teeth barely touching each other and then taping them together gently several times.
Dos and Don’ts to Lessen Tinnitus Severity
The other recommended things for lessening the severity of tinnitus(5) are:
- Following a soft diet to take off the pressure exerted by the muscles of the jaw while chewing
- Painkillers and other anti-inflammatory medications if needed
- Foe people who grind their teeth, a bite-appliance would be helpful
- Avoiding exposure to loud noises
- Checking the blood pressure levels regularly; in case of high BP, get help immediately
- Reduce the salt intake as it might affect the blood pressure levels
- Regular exercises help to maintain the blood circulation
- Avoid simulant substances such as tea, coffee, aerated drinks and tobacco
- Take adequate rest and avoid getting fatigued, and mange life stress adequately.
Tinnitus and TMJ issues are very closely related. Any issue in the TMJ can give rise to ringing in ears and if the condition exists from before, TMJ issue can exaggerate tinnitus. This is mainly because of the muscle, ligaments and nerves from the jaw are very closely related to the middle ears. Certain physical exercises of the jaw can help in reducing the tension and can thus help in management of tinnitus.
- TMJ Exercises: Exercises to Heal TMJ Disorder
- TMD: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Exercises, Tips
- Can Long Hours of Headphone Use Cause Tinnitus?
- How Long Does Tinnitus Last?|Treatment & Management of Tinnitus
- Pulsatile Tinnitus: What Can Cause Heartbeat Sound in Ears?
- Tinnitus: What Could be Causing the ‘Ringing’ in Your Ears & How is it Treated?
- Relationship Between Tinnitus and Hearing Loss