TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) Hearing Loss

Woman suffering from jaw pain

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TMJ hearing loss is less well known than other TMJ-related symptoms, such as jaw pain, limited jaw movement, and jaw “clicking” or other noises. But if it happens to you or someone you care about, you'll want to be prepared to talk about it.

“TMJ” is short for temporomandibular joint. When it comes to discussing the problems it can cause, doctors and researchers typically say, “TMJ disorders.” However, "TMJ" is commonly used alone, as here, to mean the same thing.

Other TMJ symptoms include earache, tinnitus (hearing noises that have no source), a sense of ear fullness, and vertigo (the feeling of whirling around and loss of balance).

Your Remarkable Mandible (Lower Jaw)

Your mandible, or lower jaw, is the largest and strongest bone in your face. It moves both up and down and side to side as you open and close your mouth and chew your food. It’s joined to your skull on either side by your temporomandibular joints. Your upper jaw, or maxilla, doesn’t move.

The Temporomandibular Joint Disc (TMJ Disc): A vital feature of your mandible, it’s made up of elastic cartilage (similar to the cartilage of your ears) and positioned between the two bones that hold the joint. This little disc divides each joint into two parts and enables your mandible to slide easily as you speak or chew.

Mandible-Moving Muscles: These include the medial pterygoid and lateral pterygoid muscles, which help open your mouth, and the masseter and temporalis muscles, which help close it. (The lateral pterygoid muscle also assists with moving your mandible from side to side.)

Now that you've gotten to know your remarkable mandible, let’s look at what can happen to it that may lead to TMJ hearing loss.


TMJ is a group of musculoskeletal disorders that, as you've seen, can cause a wide variety of symptoms including hearing loss. No specific cause of TMJ has been identified. However, researchers generally believe TMJ is related to a variety of factors including age, gender, stress, and personality.

Possibly the biggest problem with TMJ hearing loss is getting the proper diagnosis. Since many things can cause hearing loss, and people tend to think of ear problems first, it can take time for TMJ to be recognized and treated.

What Happens in TMJ Hearing Loss

Just as the cause of TMJ remains unidentified, so does the mechanism of TMJ hearing loss. However, there is a direct connection between your temporomandibular joint and your middle ear. Based on this, there are four main theories concerning why TMJ and hearing loss may be related:

  • The TMJ disc may move out of alignment, increasing pressure on the TMJ nerves and, in particular, in your Eustachian tube, which connects your mouth and nasal passages with your esophagus (food tube). This may lead to blocking of the Eustachian tube, which can cause hearing loss.
  • Displacement of the TMJ disc may also cause inflammation along the route from the temporomandibular joint to your ear, blocking the Eustachian tube and leading to hearing loss and, possibly, earache, tinnitus, and vertigo.
  • A third theory suggests that malfunction between the muscles and nerves of your chewing and hearing processes may lead to problems keeping your Eustachian tube open–and to hearing loss.
  • The fourth theory is more straightforward, offering the possibility that psychosocial disorders may be the cause of at least some TMJ problems, hearing loss among them.

Fortunately, TMJ hearing loss is usually reversible with treatment designed to relieve the type of TMJ disorder you have. 

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Article Sources

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