How is Ringing in the Ear Related to Jaw and Neck Pain?︱IMPACT Physical Therapy

Can Tinnitus Cause Neck and Jaw Pain?

If you regularly suffer from ringing in the ears, it’s likely you have tinnitus, a condition that affects up to 20% of people. If you find yourself feeling ear fullness, neck tightness, or pain in your neck and ear, it could also be related. Temporomandibular disorder (or TMJ) often accompanies tinnitus, and a neck injury can cause tinnitus. Our guide explores how neck pain and ringing in ears are connected, and what you can do about your symptoms. 

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The Link Between Tinnitus and Temporomandibular Disorder 

If you have tinnitus, a neck injury can feel even worse—but your tinnitus isn’t actually causing a neck injury. The temporomandibular joint (TMJ) is the hinge that connects your skull to your lower jaw. Temporomandibular disorder is a painful problem that affects your jaw muscles, joints, and facial nerves. TMJ problems can make it hard to fully open one’s mouth and often involve a loud clicking or popping sound while eating. 

In addition to jaw pain, some of the most common side effects of TMJ issues include:

  • Sore neck
  • Ear fullness
  • Neck tightness
  • Tinnitus
  • Earaches 
  • Headaches 

Can neck pain cause ear pain? Not exactly. Although your neck pain isn’t causing the ringing in your ears directly, they both may be side effects of issues caused by TMJ. Why would a stiff neck and tinnitus be caused by TMJ? Here are some of the main connections:

  • Your chewing muscles are located very close to your ears and can affect your hearing 
  • Your head’s nerve supply is very closely connected 
  • One of your jaw ligaments is directly connected with a hearing bone of the middle ear 

Can Tinnitus Cause Ear Fullness?

If you’re suffering from tinnitus, neck injury, or neck tightness, you may also be experiencing an uncomfortable sense of fullness in your ears. It can occur when the eustachian tube, which links the middle ear to the back of the nose, is swollen or irritated and not functioning properly. This can result in ear fullness, neck tightness, tinnitus, hearing problems, and other symptoms.

Can a Pinched Nerve Cause Ringing in the Ears?

Nerves can be compressed and pinched by pressure from muscles, cartilage, tendons, or surrounding bones. When this happens, the normal function of the nerve is disrupted and pain radiates to the area of the body served by the nerve.

Could a pinched nerve be contributing to your stiff neck and ringing in the ears? Health conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cervical spine abnormalities can all cause pinched nerves.

Mostly likely, your tinnitus and neck pain aren’t directly caused by a pinched nerve. It is uncertain whether or not a pinched nerve can cause ringing in the ears — but there is evidence that it can cause hearing loss. Chronic pinched nerves can become damaged over time, leading to hearing loss or tinnitus. Typically, tinnitus is a symptom of the condition that caused the pinched nerve itself.

What to Do About Tinnitus, Neck Pain, Ear Fullness, and Neck Tightness

If you are suffering from a stiff neck, tinnitus, and pain in the neck and ear, it’s more than likely you’ll need to address your TMJ to alleviate these painful symptoms. Depending on the severity of your TMJ disorder, there are several possible treatments, including: 

  • Introducing softer foods into your diet 
  • Wearing a bite guard or night guard while you sleep to prevent teeth grinding or jaw clenching
  • Surgery for the most extreme cases 

As you work through your TMJ issues, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate your neck pain and ringing in the ears.

  • For neck pain: slow, gentle neck exercises can help release tension and discomfort, as well as using a warm compress. Deeper massage or physical therapy may be necessary for more intense pain. 
  • For tinnitus: removing excess earwax buildup can help reduce tinnitus. For louder ringing, the use of hearing aids also helps dampen the sound. 

Treat Pain in the Neck and Ear With Physical Therapy 

Neck pain, ringing in ears, ear fullness, and neck tightness are uncomfortable symptoms you shouldn’t have to live with. Physical therapy is an excellent treatment method for relieving stiff neck issues. Request an appointment to learn more and see how our expert team can help restore normal movement and comfort.