My one ear plugs up when I sleep on that side and if I touch it a certain way. I can unplug it by pulling on my face near my ear. If I rub around my ear towards the top, my ear will plug again.
Can TMJ cause this? For the past two years, I've had ear pressure/pain in that ear (and sometimes the other ear too), but have never had the ear plug up before.
I wondered how normal this is and what I can do about it.
Absolutely! My first TMJD symptom was a stuffy ear... mine didn't pop for over a year though. Then came the ear pain and numbness of my ears. It is very disconcerting. Turns out my TMJ discs had slipped forward and resulted in my lower jaw being pushed back just mm into my ear.
I'd say your sleeping position is probably affecting the position of your lower jaw as well.
It took PT, orofacial trigger point releases and use of a lower mandibular repositioning splint to get my ear to finally pop.
Have you read the book The TMJ Healing Plan by Cynthia Peterson? She gives suggestions on posture, muscle relaxation, sleeping, breathing, tmj treatment options, etc... If might have some helpful ideas you can use at home.
Thanks MountainReader, it helps to be reassured that TMJD does do this. I wanted to ask you if your ear symptoms got worse after you began your splint therapy? If so, how long did it take before you began feeling any type of relief from your symptoms? I've been wearing my repositioning splint for a few weeks now and my ear symptoms have been worse than they've ever been. I've read that sometimes repositioning splints can make things worse for some people, so I'm wondering if my splint is making things much worse or is this part of getting used to the new splint?
Just wanted to chime in here. I am 3 months into my repositioning splint. It is slow going. I am feeling better than I was, and my left disc has been partially recaptured. My symptoms are still here, but diminishing. I do remember my ear pain being pretty bad right after getting my splint. I had my splint adjusted and it got better.
Since I got my splint, I have had neck and shoulder pain. Never had that before. But other symptoms are better! Like joint pain and post nasal drip, tingling in my fingers.
A couple thoughts on things getting worse with a splint:
1. The splint has to be properly fit. If not, it can make things worse. I had that happen with a prior dentist.
2. Much of TMJ pain comes from muscles spasming. When the jaw is out of place, the muscles tighten to try to provide stabilization. If they have been in spasm for a long time, it may not be easy to get them loosened up. (My opinion there.) When we add in a new splint, the muscles may fight the new position, thus more pain at first.
When I started my splint therapy, I did have some extra pain so I called my ENT and he gave me a couple weeks of muscle relaxers which I used as needed. I also had multiple appointments with my PT who worked on my neck, shoulder and jaw and who did orofacial trigger point releases. I started feeling better after a couple weeks and my ear pain was gone by around 3 months. My ear didn't pop for about a year though. After about 6 months, my muscles were "happy" enough that my orthodontist was ready to move on to Phase II. 6 months is the average as per my orthodontist for Phase I treatments.
My ear is no longer unplugging. It's just staying plugged now no matter how much I pull on it. I can't hear very well out of that ear. I can barely hear the rain, the crickets or my husband whispering to me when my "good" ear is down on the pillow. I'm completely freaked out by this and very frightened by my ear symptoms.
MountainReader- when you say your ear was stuffy, does this mean your hearing was effected? Did things sound muffled and were low sounds difficult to hear? I always test my hearing by seeing if I can hear my two fingers rubbing together by my ear. Right now, my left ear can barely hear that. I didn't think that TMJ caused any kind of hearing loss. Do you regain the hearing after TMJ treatment?
At this point, I took out my splint because I felt it was making things worse. I'm scared to wear it and I'm scared not to. I have an appointment with my TMJ dentist on Wednesday, so I will tell him what is going on. I hope he has some answers for me because I really don't know what to do.
I also want to call my ENT to have him take a look. I'm scared to do this too because I'm not sure ENT's understand the TMJ thing and as soon as they hear that you have ear pressure and hearing loss, they'll just slap a Menieres diagnosis on to it.
I'm just so scared--I can take any other TMJ symptom, just not the ear symptoms. Unfortunately, the ear ones are my main ones and sometimes my only ones. Right now, my left ear hurts so bad (or at least the pressure is so bad) that it feels like someone just slapped me real hard on that side of my face. My so called "good" ear has pressure too and I keep getting a sudden sharp pain in it, but I can hear fine out of that ear. Someone please help. What do I do from here? Do I see my ENT? Do I trust my TMJ dentist who I worry isn't treating me correctly and he's very reluctant to comment on my ear symptoms. It's like he doesn't want to guarantee that my ears are fine just in case he's wrong. Not very reassuring.
I actually started by seeing my ENT and getting a full exam with an Audiologist.
I've seen this ENT for years and he fights for me so I had high trust in him. He checked my eustachian tube and did a thorough exam and couldn't find anything. When I started suspecting TMJ, he said he wasn't an expert on that, but he has been very interested in hearing my progress as I've received treatment. He also was willing to prescribe me some short 2 week scripts for muscle relaxers to help with my ear pain got too intense to help me through the worst of times.
I can't really help you with the hearing questions you asked. When my right ear went "stuffy" and wouldn't pop for over a year, it did make things muffled some like when it is stuffy at other times. Unfortunately/fortunately, my stuffiness was in an ear that has never been able to hear speech well already so I couldn't tell you how badly it was impacting my hearing.
As for hearing loss, I've had regular hearing exams since I was 5. It came as a complete surprise when I had the hearing loss in my "good" ear. Ironically, when I had all my TMJ testing done my left TMJ is actually in much worse condition than the right. Until i got my hearing aids, I just hadn't realized how much loss I'd had on my left side. I expect my hearing loss to be permenant. I have a couple months left before insurance will pay for a follow-up with my Audiologist. I'll post how it goes after my visit. Based upon what my ENT, Audiologist and TMJ orthodontist has said, I think it is extremely rare for there to be a TMJD/ hearing loss connection. I hope that is the case for you.
It is really hard to know who to trust to create a splint for you. When I found my current orthodontist, who is just incredibly good, I'd been wearing a night splint that I'd paid a fortune to get from my dentist only to find out it had probably done more harm than good. Thankfully, my repositioning splint worked, even though it was months into treatment before my ear popped.
In addition to the splint therapy, you really need to find a way to get those muscles in front of your ear from spasming. Have you done any type of therapy to help? The splint was only a piece of my treatment. I don't think my splint therapy would have progressed so well if I hadn't been getting the physical therapy treatments as well.
I got my lower braces today. This will be the first time in 26 months that I haven't had it to hold my jaw in place while I sleep. I'm praying I don't end up back where I started with my ear pain. I wear elastics at night just to try to keep my lower jaw in a forward position, but up until now, that supplemented the splint.
I saw the eNT today who told me all is A-OK with my ears. The hearing difficulty turned out to be from a ton of wax in both ears. They removed the wax and tested my hearing. My hearing is perfect and showing no change at all from two years ago. I can hear so much better right now and I'm very relieved.
The following user gives a hug of support to rlat45: MountainReader (07-25-2012)