Dear TMJ Sufferers,
I need to know for certain that what I am experiencing isn't some kind of inner ear disease or pathology. I have asked this before but feel that I've never received a clear answer. My main symptom is ear pressure/pain in the left ear. It's constant and enough to drive me insane. Lately, the hearing in that ear has been slightly muffled, like if I have my good ear on a pillow at night, I can't hear whispering very well at all. When this all started over 2.5 years ago, I saw 3 inner ear specialists who all said that there was nothing wrong with my ears. My hearing tests at that time were all normal. I started this awful journey with three separate vertigo spells that were all one month from each other. It wasn't constant spinning, just a feeling of severe dizziness and disequalibrium. I was able to go to work through one of them but felt very nauscious doing so. Each episode lasted about 8 hours. The ENT's diagnosed it as Vestibular Neuritis. The vertigo never returned, but what followed was TMJ symptoms. I have had so many symptoms that are on the TMJ symptoms list, but they rotate and change. The one symptom that stays constant is the ear pressure/pain in that one ear. The other ear can get a feeling of slight pressure too, but it's never been as bad as the left one. I feel like I need to pop the left one every minute of every day. It feels stuffy, like it has something in it, but I can hear out of it (it's not plugged).
I worry constantly that although I do have other TMJ symptoms, that there is something wrong with my ear and the only reason the ENT's haven't diagnosed an ear problem is because I don't have all the symptoms yet. I torture myself worrying about developing the other symptoms and losing my hearing and/or living with episodes of severe vertigo. So scary and I just can't seem to get any peace about it. My TMJ NM dentist confirmed the TMJ diagnosis with a CT scan, but I worry that everyone is told that and I'm paying all this money and treating the wrong condition.
When I asked him about knowing for sure this isn't an ear problem, he just said that the ENT's have tests for that and they know.
I almost never see anyone else worrying like I do about these ear symptoms being something wrong with their ears. I wonder why? How can I be sure there is nothing wrong with my ears?
Thanks in advance for any help you can give. Sorry for the long post.
Sorry to hear what a tough time you've been through. These issues sure are tricky ones.
If you've been to 3 ear specialists and they say you are ok, you probably are. However, sometimes issues get missed. If you are still doubtful, it can't hurt to find the best ear specialist and get another opinion if it'll help answer some questions.
The real question for me is on what evidence did your NM dentist base your CT scan diagnosis? If the NM dentist has definitive causal evidence for TMJ, that speaks for itself. If the dentist has not based her/his diagnosis on anything specific, I can understand why you are sceptical. If this is the case, find out exactly what is causing your TMJD so that you can be sure about it. We have to spend so much money on treatment, it's understandable to want to ensure that it's money well spent!
I have heard your ear issues as a very common complaint for TMJD folks. I've spent a lot of time on these sites so that I feel very familiar with it, although it is the only one TMJD symptom that I don't experience. The structures of the TM joint are encased in a type of capsule, somewhat like a mickey mouse balloon inside a regular balloon, like you see at Disney. When there is something wrong inside this capsule, swelling occurs and pressure is placed on the ear structures resulting in the sensations that you have described. Once the TMJ issues are sorted out, these sensations usually abate as swelling and pressure inside the capsule decrease.
Hope this helps! And I hope you find some relief soon
Last edited by Administrator; 07-14-2012 at 04:35 AM.
Thanks. What my NM dentist told me is that the CT scan showed that we need to recapture the disk on the left side. He explained that my one TMJ is pushed too far back while the other side is too far away. My jaw deviates to the left when I open my mouth as well. He thinks it is very likely this was a result of a bad fall I took 2 1/2 years ago before this all started. He ordered the repositioning splint that I've been having trouble adapting to, but I have been wearing now for about 2 weeks.
I just get really unglued when I have particularly bad ear days. The other TMJ symptoms can come and go and I can go a long time without any jaw pain at all. Last week, however, I chewed a piece of gum all day long and the next morning my jaw was so sore and stiff, it was too painful to eat a potato chip. Hmmm. Most days though I can eat almost anything I want although my ear symptoms seem to worsen if I eat something hard to chew. The symptoms don't seem to kick in until after the fact though.
You are lucky that you don't have TMJ ear symptoms. That is the one symptom that bothers me the most. I can deal with the other symptoms, but the ear ones give me a lot of anxiety.
I could try going back to the ENT, but they act like I'm crazy for worrying about my ears like i do. They just kept telling me that there was nothing wrong with my ears. It sure feels like there is though.
I have a lot of stress in my life and have a child with special needs who requires a great deal of care. I don't have time to get sick and the thought of developing an inner ear condition scares the daylights out of me.
Just looking for that reassurance that this is all TMJ and that one day this will all be a distant memory.
Thanks again, I do appreciate your words of encouragement.
Last edited by Administrator; 07-14-2012 at 04:35 AM.
I'm glad to be of help rlat45. Everything you describe really does sound like TMJD to me. The fact that you have jaw pain after chewing something hard or after chewing gum is more evidence. The ear issues you describe also sound like classic TMJD to me. I've heard the same description countless times. I've also heard people say it gets better with repositional splint therapy.
Although I don't have ear pressure/fullness, I have other ear issues like tinnitus, hyperacusis (sounds register louder than in reality) and bad muscle splasms in the ear. Unless people have these kind of issues they really don't understand how disturbing they can be. Perhaps not painful, but so disconcerting and disturbing! All my ear issues seemed to get better when splint therapy started to work, so I hope the same will happen to you. Now that my jaw is moving again in braces, they've worsened a little again but I'm sure once I'm through this part of treatment and my jaw finds a healthy resting position, it'll stop again.
It can take a while to see results with the splint - sometimes months - so hang in there! Things got worse for me before I finally got better. If after 4 months you don't see results, I'd highly recommend seeing and upper cervical chiro who specializes in TMJD as well as a specializing physio. If the body gets involved, it can help keep the symptoms stuck - I think it did for me.
You say you are having trouble adapting to the splint. There is a natural adaptation period - was about 2-3 weeks for me. What are you experiencing that feels like you aren't adapting? You may need to get the splint better adjusted to your mouth. Don't be afraid to go back for adjustments if needed.
Hang in there!
Last edited by Administrator; 07-14-2012 at 04:36 AM.
I'm really surprised that your dentist didn't put you on a no chew diet. Your jaw and jaw muscles needs time to relax so that your TMJs can hopefully recapture (go back in place) Also... People with TMJ problems REALLY need to work on their stress levels. Stress is a HUGE problem for people with TMJ. Have your doctor prescribe xanax or valium in low dosages. Once you get your stress under control (I know it's hard, trust me) your ear problems with slowly disappear.
The Following User Says Thank You to PatientZero For This Useful Post: rlat45 (07-05-2012)