man with ringing in his earsTinnitus can be a minor nuisance or a major disturbance. It can sound like a subtle ringing in the ears or a roaring sound that blocks out almost everything in your environment. It might pulse regularly, change intensity according to your motions and actions, or even come and go inexplicably. Tinnitus can be many things, but rarely is it easy to treat.

Tinnitus can be a primary condition–not related to any other conditions–but more often, it’s a secondary symptom related to something else. Sometimes that other condition can be treated to diminish or eliminate tinnitus, though other times, the best you can hope for is learning strategies to live with tinnitus.

With a condition as variable as tinnitus, it should come as no surprise that there are many options for treatment offered by many different medical providers. Columbia, SC, TMJ dentist Dr. Adam Hahn wants to help you understand when to see a TMJ dentist for tinnitus and when you should consider other providers to help with your condition. Here are some of the doctors who can treat TMJ and when you should see them.

Otolaryngologist or ENT

Ear, nose, and throat doctors (ENTs), also known as otolaryngologists, specialize in diagnosing and treating disorders of the structures in their name.

What Makes an ENT Qualified to Treat Tinnitus?

An ENT is a medical doctor trained in the anatomy and diseases of the ear, nose, and throat. Their training gives them a solid toolkit for checking and testing numerous possible causes of tinnitus. They likely have extensive experience dealing with tinnitus and close partnerships with other tinnitus care providers. They can help you eliminate numerous possible causes of tinnitus (such as earwax buildup) and then direct your next steps.

When to See an ENT for Tinnitus

A Columbia, SC, ENT can be a great first stop in treating tinnitus. If you have no other symptoms connected to the ringing in your ears, an ENT should be your first stop. However, they will likely not be your last stop. Instead, they will probably refer you to another care provider for further testing and treatment.

TMJ Dentist

TMJ is a common shorthand for temporomandibular joint disorders (though some people prefer TMD). A TMJ dentist is trained to diagnose and treat these disorders, which are very common. Perhaps 90% of people with TMJ experience tinnitus as well as other ear symptoms.

What Makes a TMJ Dentist Qualified to Treat Tinnitus?

A TMJ dentist has training and experience in treating disorders of the jaw joint, related muscles, and nearby structures. The delicate structures of the ear are attached to the muscles, bones, and other structures of the jaw. For many people, these connections can cause problems in the ear, including tinnitus, a feeling of fullness in the ear, hearing loss, ear pain, and dizziness.

Treating TMJ can reduce or eliminate these symptoms.

When to See a TMJ Dentist for Tinnitus

A Columbia, SC, TMJ dentist should be your first stop for tinnitus if you’re experiencing other TMJ symptoms, such as:

  • Headache
  • Jaw pain
  • Popping and clicking jaw sounds
  • Irregular jaw motion
  • Worn or chipped teeth

Otherwise, you should see a TMJ dentist by referral from other providers. You should also see a TMJ dentist if people tell you your tinnitus can’t be treated or if recommended tinnitus treatments aren’t working. Medical doctors often don’t understand TMJ and may not know how it could help.


An audiologist trains specifically to care for the ear system, which includes both hearing problems (such as tinnitus) as well as vertigo and dizziness.

What Makes an Audiologist Qualified to Treat Tinnitus?

An audiologist understands the hearing system in greater detail than perhaps any other specialist. Once you have tracked your tinnitus specifically to a hearing problem, an audiologist may give you your best chance of finding a successful solution.

When to See an Audiologist for Tinnitus

Typically, your ENT will refer you to an audiologist when they eliminate many common causes of tinnitus, making a hearing problem the likely cause.

Neurologist or Neurotologist

A neurologist specializes in treating nerve disorders. This includes the brain and spinal cord as well as the peripheral nervous system, including the nerves that carry signals from the ear to the brain. A neurotologist is an ENT specialist who has trained in the nerve disorders of this area of the body.

What Makes a Neurologist Qualified to Treat Tinnitus?

In some cases, tinnitus might stem from disorders and diseases of the nerves. It could be linked to the nerves carrying sound signals from the ear, or it could be related to the part of the brain that interprets sound or both.

In these cases, a neurologist can help you get relief from tinnitus.

When to See a Neurologist for Tinnitus

You should try to eliminate more common physical causes of tinnitus before seeing a neurologist. Therefore, you should wait to see a neurologist for tinnitus until you get a referral.

Psychiatrist or Psychologist

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor, while a psychologist is a therapist focused on the care of mental health problems. However, a psychiatrist might be focused on therapy, and a psychologist might have a doctorate.

What Makes a Psychologist Qualified to Treat Tinnitus?

Tinnitus sometimes has a significant psychological component. There might be a psychological trigger (such as stress), it might be an issue of focus, or there could be other psychological factors at play. In addition, psychologists can help you deal with the psychological complications of a tinnitus diagnosis, especially when there’s no cure available.

When to See a Psychologist for Tinnitus

See a psychologist or psychiatrist when another tinnitus care provider refers you to them. You can also see a psychologist if you experience psychological complications related to your diagnosis, such as depression.

Looking for Tinnitus Treatment in Columbia, SC?

If you experience tinnitus that is troublesome or disruptive, it’s important to seek care. Hopefully, our simple guide has helped you understand what types of providers can treat your tinnitus and when to see them.

If your symptoms suggest you might have TMJ, Columbia, SC, TMJ dentist Dr. Adam Hahn can help. Please call (803) 781-9090 or use our online form to request an appointment at Smile Columbia Dentistry.