Have you ever been trapped somewhere with an annoying noise — perhaps a distant car alarm or a neighbor’s too-loud music — and felt frustrated, distracted, and unfocused? Now imagine that you’re trapped with that annoying sound in your ears and there’s nothing you can do to escape it.

That’s tinnitus, a condition with a host of possible causes that results in the sufferer hearing intermittent or constant ringing, buzzing, or whining sounds, regardless of the actual soundscape around them. This condition is extremely widespread, affecting a staggering one in five people worldwide by some estimates.

The Basics of Tinnitus

Besides the recurring sounds, tinnitus sufferers may also experience a feeling of stuffiness in the ears, or ear pain, or both. Tinnitus could be caused by ear trauma, ear wax blockage, ear infection, or even simply listening to music too loudly. In fact, tinnitus is not so much a health issue itself as it is a side effect of a wide variety of other health issues.

No matter the cause, tinnitus can be debilitating. It affects concentration, reaction speeds, memory, and even emotional processing. People who suffer from tinnitus may have difficulty keeping up with their job, school, and even personal relationships. However, due to the vast array of possible causes and the difficulty of actually measuring tinnitus, it is incredibly challenging to diagnose and treat. There are even some kinds of tinnitus that don’t seem to be tied to physical causes at all.

New Study May Help Tinnitus Sufferers

Good news: A new study from Dr. Jay Piccirillo, a professor of otolaryngology, may have found a way to help.

The study was conducted with the participation of 40 adults who reported suffering from tinnitus for more than six months, as well as 20 healthy patients to be used as a control group. Each participant used the Brain Fitness Program-Tinnitus, an online program featuring 11 interactive training exercises designed to distract the brain from the sounds of tinnitus.

Participants used the program for one hour a day, five days a week, for the duration of the eight-week study. Before participants began using the program, researchers performed brain scans and tests of memory and attention. These same tests were repeated at the end of the eight-week study.

Results were mixed. Brain scans showed changes to the sections of the brain that handle attention and mental control. However, the memory and attention tests did not indicate any differences. Despite this, the participants in the study reported feeling improvements, both to their memory and concentration, and to their tinnitus.

Unfortunately, treating tinnitus is treating a symptom. The most effective way to treat tinnitus in the long term is to treat the underlying problem that is resulting in the ringing sounds. If you haven’t been able to pinpoint the cause of your tinnitus, you should consider that you may have TMJ.

As many as 80% of TMJ sufferers also suffer from tinnitus. This is because the temporomandibular joint lies in close proximity to the structures of the inner ear and the cochlear nerve. Any imbalance or tension in the delicate inner ear system could irritate the cochlear nerve, resulting in the perception of sound.

If you think TMJ might be at the root of your tinnitus, please call (803) 781-9090 or contact Smile Columbia Dentistry online to schedule an appointment and learn how TMJ treatment can help treat your tinnitus.