Tinnitus is a symptom defined as the perception of sound in the absence of an external source. It can be in one ear or both ears.
For most people, the sound is so present that it hurts their quality of life. Tinnitus is also known as ringing in the ears.
There are several promising treatment options available that can help you reduce the ringing in your ears. Unfortunately, there is still no cure for tinnitus.
In this article, I’ll discuss the cause, symptoms, and all possible treatment options to help you control your ears’ ringing and reduce tinnitus. The treatment helps all my patients to reduce the buzzing in their ears. It focusses on exercises for your jaw and neck.
So let’s get started!
What causes tinnitus
The cause of tinnitus is unclear, but there’s evidence of factors contributing to ringing in the ears.
We distinguish between objective and somatic tinnitus. The cause for primary tinnitus. A doctor can hear objective tinnitus.
The cause of objective tinnitus can be high blood pressure, a restricted artery, or a problem with your ear. A doctor can often treat objective tinnitus.
Somatic tinnitus can only be heard by you. This is the most common tinnitus form and much harder to get rid of. Be we can reduce the intensity.
People who suffer from tinnitus have increased activity of the brain part associated with hearing. It increases the activity of the hearing nerves, letting you hear things that aren’t there.
Research also shows a relationship between neck pain, stiff neck muscles, jaw problems (temporomandibular disorders), and tinnitus. People with neck pain and jaw dysfunction suffer more from tinnitus than those without. That’s possible because the nerves from your neck also accent the auditory centrum in your brain, increasing neural activity even more.
The muscles high in the neck share the same nerve with your ear. The information your muscles send to your brain is interpreted by the brain, after which the feeling is sent back. The feeling is sometimes sent back to the wrong place connected to the same nerve. In this case, that’s the ear. That may cause your brain to produce the sound based on the information it receives from the neck muscles, which it thinks is the sound that your ear has received. Sound is also a signal sent from your ears to your brain and then interpreted and sent back. It may explain why the treatment of the neck muscles can significantly reduce ringing in the ears. However, there is no evidence yet that it works that way.
Another possible cause of tinnitus is hearing problems. When your ear receives fewer signals and sends them to your brain, your brain can produce signals so that you can still hear something without sound. This phenomenon is comparable to phantom pain.
People who have lost an arm or leg often still feel pain in this limb. A piece of the brain still wants to receive and interpret information from the limb. When no more information comes, your brain itself produces information in the form of pain. The same seems to happen with ringing in the ears.
Research shows an association between hypertension (high blood pressure) and tinnitus. It means that you’re more likely to develop tinnitus when you suffer from high blood pressure.
The final possible cause of tinnitus is stress. Stress increases the tension in your neck muscles and upper back muscles. It can also lead to jaw pain. As I mentioned before, neck and jaw pain can lead to ringing in the ears.
What are tinnitus symptoms?
Sufferers from tinnitus complain of ringing in the ears, buzzing in-ear, a whooshing sound in the ear, humming in the ears, hearing a high-pitched noise or a humming sound.
A headache, dizziness, or vertigo can also accompany tinnitus. These symptoms can come simultaneously because they share the same problem: neck pain and a stiff neck.
In a recent study, scientists discussed the most common tinnitus symptoms and devised a list. They divided tinnitus into 3 categories.
Criteria on tinnitus modulation
- The patient can modulate the tinnitus by voluntary movement of the head, neck, jaw, or eyes
- The patient can modulate the tinnitus by somatic maneuvers
- Tinnitus is modulated by pressure on myofascial trigger points
- Tinnitus and neck or jaw pain complaints appeared simultaneously
- Tinnitus and neck/jaw pain symptoms aggravate simultaneously
- Tinnitus is preceded by a head or neck trauma
- Tinnitus increases during bad postures
- Tinnitus pitch, loudness, and/or location are reported to vary
- In the case of unilateral tinnitus, the audiogram does not account for unilateral tinnitus
- Tinnitus is accompanied by frequent pain in the cervical spine, head, or shoulder girdle
- Tinnitus is accompanied by the presence of pressure tender myofascial trigger points
- Tinnitus is accompanied by increased muscle tension in the suboccipital muscles
- Tinnitus is accompanied by increased muscle tension in the extensor muscles of the cervical spine
- Tinnitus is accompanied by temporomandibular disorders
- Tinnitus is accompanied by teeth clenching or bruxism
- Tinnitus is accompanied by dental diseases
If these symptoms sound familiar to you, you may suffer from somatic tinnitus.
Now, let’s see how you can reduce your symptoms.
Tinnitus treatment with 5 exercises for real relief
First, I’ll discuss ways to reduce the intensity of your tinnitus. I use this method with many of my patients, and each one reported at least a less intense ringing in their ears. Research shows that physical therapy aiming to improve neck and jaw function can be an effective tinnitus treatment.
The treatment focuses on reducing stress, improving your neck’s mobility, and reducing the tension in your neck muscles. As discussed before, research shows that these factors strongly relate to the existence of tinnitus. That’s why we have to address all these possible factors.
Furthermore, you have to reduce stress in your life. You can use supplements that reduce stress, but you should also reduce stressful situations to relieve your neck’s tension.
Also, don’t focus on the sound you hear. The more you listen to your tinnitus, the louder it will get. You have to find a way to ignore it to reduce the intensity.
Finally, you must restore your neck’s mobility and relax your jaw muscles to relieve your tinnitus successfully.
Tinnitus exercise 1: Improve the mobility of your neck
The first exercise focuses on improving the mobility of your neck. A stiff neck increases the tension in your neck muscles because they must work harder. By enhancing your neck’s mobility, you will be more successful in reducing your neck muscle tension.
It’s also a great exercise to reduce neck pain and tension headaches.
Perform the exercise like this:
- Wrap a towel around your neck
- Take with your left hand the right side of the towel and with your right hand the left side
- Lift the hand that is in front up until the towel is at the same height as your cheek
- Now pull with your arm and the towel your head in full rotation to the side
- Repeat this ten times and then change to the opposite side by changing your hands
- Finally, grasp the towel normally and lift your arms, and look up at the same time
You can also see how to perform the exercise in this video.
Perform the exercise at least twice a day. Rotate your head as far as you can. It’s okay when it hurts. That’s because you stretch the limit of your neck at this point. That way, you’ll improve mobility.
Tinnitus exercise 2: reduce the tension in your neck muscles
The second exercise aims to reduce the tension in your neck muscles. Stretching your neck muscles is another way to reduce their tension, along with massaging them regularly.
Relaxed muscles are pain-free muscles.
You can perform the exercise like this:
- Place your hand on your head
- Pull your head sideways
- Also, rotate your head to the same side until you feel the maximum stretch
- Hold this position for 20 seconds
- Repeat three times on both sides
You can see how to perform the exercise in this video.
Repeat this exercise several times a day. You can’t do it too often.
Tinnitus exercise 3: Reduce the tension in your jaw muscles
With the third exercise, you can reduce the tension in your jaw muscles. Jaw pain or temporomandibular joint dysfunction is a significant contributor to tinnitus, as mentioned before.
By reducing your jaw muscles’ tension, your neck muscles also relax more because they’re connected in their functioning.
Therefore the exercise also contributes to a reduction of your tinnitus.
Perform the exercise like this:
- Place the thumb in your mouth and place your index finger on your cheek.
- Compress your jaw muscle between the 2 fingers where it hurts the most
- Hold this for 15 seconds
- repeat this 3 times
- Perform the exercise several times a day
You can see how to perform the exercise in the picture below.
When doing the exercise, you should feel a stinging pain at the start, that fades away quicker each time you perform the exercise.
Tinnitus exercise 4: Train your deep neck muscles
The final exercise improves the strength of your deep neck muscles. These muscles help you to sit straight and work together with the muscles at the back of your head. So when these muscles become weaker, the muscles at the back of your head have to work harder. These are the muscles that can cause tinnitus or headaches.
So training these muscles will also reduce the tension in your neck muscles and, therefore, relieve tinnitus and neck pain.
You can perform the exercise like this:
- Lay down on your back
- Pull your chin in as far as you can and hold this position
- Now lift your head about 2 cm (1 inch) with your chin pulled in
- Hold this as long as you can
- Repeat this five times
You can also see how to perform the exercise in the picture below.
When performing this exercise, you’ll notice that you can’t keep your chin pulled in for long. When you feel that you can no longer keep your chin tucked in, you can rest for a while. It is more important to do the exercise properly than to keep it going for as long as possible. The danger is that you will use other neck muscles to overload your neck, and the muscles only become stiffer.
You should be able to hold the position for about 15-20 seconds after training for a few weeks. In the beginning, most people can’t hold the position for longer than 5 seconds. That’s no problem, just work your way up.
These 4 tinnitus exercises will help you relieve your tinnitus significantly. Unfortunately, it takes a long time for them to work.
In the meantime, there are other strategies to cope with your tinnitus while it’s still there.
Tinnitus exercise 5: Massage your neck and jaw muscles
The last tinnitus exercise focuses on reducing the tension in your neck muscles and jaw muscles.
You can massage the muscles in your neck that attach to your skull and jaw. Focus here on the area under your ear. You feel a lump at both sides where also a muscle connects. It’s this muscle you have to massage and the area between this muscle and your jaw. You can also massage the muscles surrounding your jaw joint as well.
You’re looking for tender spots, preferably that affect your tinnitus directly, either aggravation or reduction.
You can also reduce the tension in your muscles by applying a heat pack to your neck. Heat loosens your muscles to reduce pain and reduce the signals they send to your brain, often causing the sound you hear.
Tinnitus treatment: Masking your tinnitus
The second and most straightforward way to reduce your tinnitus is by masking the sound.
You can buy this LectroFan, which produces a constant sound in your bedroom or anywhere you put it. Because there is an actual sound now, you will hear that sound and not your tinnitus. Since you know, the origin of this sound and the fact that the sound is different than you usually hear makes the sound less annoying. It will help you sleep better and reduce the anger you can have about your tinnitus while you try to sleep.
When you have hearing loss, getting a hearing aid can also mask your tinnitus by improving your hearing. You can also visit a hearing care professional for a personal hearing test.
Coping with your tinnitus
The final strategy you can use is to learn how to cope with your tinnitus. The technique teaches you how to learn to live with your tinnitus so that you control it, and it doesn’t control you anymore.
Mindfulness is an effective way to learn to cope with your tinnitus. It lets you focus on how you feel and teaches you to accept the sound in your ear.
Another therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy. It’s a type of behavioral therapy to help you accept your tinnitus.
These strategies are the last resort when you can’t reduce your tinnitus with the exercise program.
As you can see, you have many options to reduce your tinnitus. You have to take action on every point for maximum results. If you have any questions left after reading this article, feel free to send me an e-mail.
Also, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more videos.