by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A lady wrote,
I have had high-pitched tonal tinnitus for 14 months. It’s been at the same level pretty much everyday, although once in a while it gets a little lower, but it’s always there 24/7. I have noticed that if I move my jaw, my tinnitus in my left ear gets louder! And strangely, if I turn my head hard right it gets louder in my right ear, and if I turn it hard left, it gets louder in my left ear. Are these just characteristics of tinnitus? I don’t ever grind my teeth and I have never had whiplash or any neck problems? What is going on and how can I get rid of this?
Has this been going on since you got your tonal tinnitus 14 month ago, or is it just recent? If you got it all at the same time, then I think these things are related.
The good news is that proper treatment can likely eliminate your tinnitus or make it far less noticeable. Let me explain.
When you move your jaw and worse tinnitus results, you likely have a form of somatic (body) tinnitus caused by your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) not working properly. Since your TMJ is very close to your ear, if it is not aligned properly, it puts strain on your ear structures and can result in louder tinnitus, as you have discovered.
Doctors call this temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD). You can have a dentist or chiropractor that specializes in TMJ/TMD disorders check it out and help get it back into proper alignment. That should eliminate this source of tinnitus.
Turning your neck to the left or right and hearing louder tinnitus is actually quite common. This indicates that your neck is out of alignment to some degree. Commonly, this is the result of the two big muscles (the ones on each side of your neck that bulge out when your head is turned hard left or right) are not in proper balance with each other. (These muscles go by the fancy name of sternocleidomastoid “ster-noe-kly-doe-mas-toid” [sterno—from your breast bone or sternum, cleido—from your collar bone or clavicle, and mastoid—from the mastoid bone behind your ear]). When these muscles are not in balance, they pull on your neck vertebrae and the mastoid area near your ears, and this can result in louder tinnitus.
Again, the good news is that a chiropractor can treat this so this somatic tinnitus almost fades away.
You have an interesting variation of this condition. I’ve not heard of people that can make the tinnitus in their left ear become louder by turning their head hard to the left, and making their tinnitus in their right ear get louder by turning their head to the right—but I’m not surprised that it does that.
When my neck is “out” at bit, I can make my tinnitus momentarily louder when I turn my head hard to the left or the right. It affects both ears equally.
If you want to learn more about somatic tinnitus and its several variations, you can learn more in my book, Take Control of Your Tinnitus—Here’s How.