If someone hears sounds and noises when there are no external sounds present, then he or she is most likely dealing with tinnitus. As you can see here, every single person will probably experience at least a mild form of tinnitus. Yet, it won’t be a problem until the issue gets so severe that it starts hindering people’s hearing and concentration, and becomes annoying and extremely frequent. That’s when people decide to get help and get rid of the problem.
The sounds people can hear when experiencing tinnitus are often described as a ringing or buzzing noises in the ears. As there are a few different forms of this condition, there are also different noises. They can be low or high pitched and some people even report hearing hissing and clicking sounds instead of ringing and buzzing ones. In some cases, people can also hear music, which means that they are probably dealing with musical tinnitus, or musical ear syndrome (MES).
No matter which type you are affected by, the truth is that it can be rather frustrating. Getting used to those noises is an option, but it is most often not the best one. Although, if there are no other solutions, you will most certainly need to learn how to live with it and how to ignore it. Luckily, though, there are almost always other solutions and your hearing specialist will most usually be the one that can help you get rid of those noises.
Today we are going to be talking about one specific type of this condition. It’s called somatic tinnitus and it can be caused by various different reasons. We are going to take a look at what it is, how you can recognize it, why it is caused, as well as how it can be treated. So, let us start answering those questions one at a time, starting with the most basic one.
Speaking of basic information, here is an article that can help you understand the basics of tinnitus in general: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/understanding-tinnitus-basics
What Is Somatic Tinnitus?
Somatosensory or somatic, tinnitus is a type of this condition that can be caused or at least worsened by your very body’s sensory system. Somatic signals are actually generated from the muscle position sensors located in the head, neck, face, tongue, trunk, arms, as well as the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). When somatosensory information is changed in those locations, somatic tinnitus can occur. Most often, it occurs when information change in the jaw and the cervical spine.
As you probably already know, we all have a somatosensory system that is actually a part of the nervous system. It consists of a network of neurons and sensory nerves which respond to the changes on the surface of the body, as well as within the body, such as temperature, pain, pressure, and touch. Those are the changes that I have mentioned above and that are said to influence or even cause somatic tinnitus.
This specific type of tinnitus usually occurs in one ear only. If you are wondering how to differentiate it from other types, i.e. how to actually recognize the somatic component, there are a few factors that can point towards that.
Those include fluctuating loudness, changes in location, daily pattern, as well as intermittency, and similar factors. Plus, if you don’t have issues with hearing loss, but you are struggling with neck, head, or dental issues, then you are most likely dealing with somatic tinnitus.
What Are The Symptoms?
Since I have started talking about how you can recognize this particular condition, it’s only natural to continue by talking about its symptoms. As already explained above, tinnitus, in general, is described as a ringing and buzzing noise in your ears. That symptom is certainly not different regardless of the kind of this condition that you are dealing with. Of course, the sounds and noises you hear can vary, but you will most definitely be able to recognize those and notice them when they occur.
There are some things that can indicate you are dealing with a somatic issue. Basically, if you are able to change, or even start those noises by making certain movements, then chances are that you are dealing with a somatic problem.
Those movements include TMJ, neck, head, and arms muscle contractions, head rotations, mouth movements, and sometimes even eye movements. If you notice that your issue is getting worse when performing some of those movements, that’s a clear sign that you are dealing with somatic tinnitus.
How Is It Caused?
There is no doubt that you are interested in learning both how this ringing in the ears is caused, as well as how to treat it. As you might have heard, you can do some of the best somatic tinnitus neck exercises in order to get rid of the problem or make it milder, which means that the condition can be treated and reversed.
Before we get to that, though, let us have a quick look at what it is that can cause the problem in the first place. I’m sure that you are curious about that, so it’s time to satisfy your curiosity.
Before I start listing the causes, though, let me make it clear that this specific condition usually occurs in people that do not have any hearing issues. You might have heard that hearing problems are the main cause of tinnitus and that’s definitely correct, but not when this particular type is in question. The somatic type is also known to occur in younger people, i.e. those under 40 and, for some reason, statistics show that women are affected by it more than men. Anyway, let us take a look at some of the things that can cause or worsen the issue.
- Neck Muscle Spasms
As I am sure you already know, a spasm can be described as an involuntary tightening of the muscles all over your body. That includes neck muscles as well. Spasms can cause either mild or severe pain that can last for different periods of time.
Sometimes, the pain can last for a couple of minutes, while other times, it can even go on for days. You have probably at least once experienced this type of pain in your neck, which is why I am completely sure that you know what I am talking about.
The Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) is one of the most known muscles in the neck and it is located on both sides of the neck behind the ears. This is the muscle that’s responsible for helping you turn your head from one side to another, chew, swallow, stabilize your head, and many other things. It also helps people breathe.
Spasms in this muscle can happen from time to time, for various reasons, and they can be the cause of somatic tinnitus. Poor posture, injuries, sudden movements, and repeated activities of turning your head from one side to another can be the cause of the spasm.
What’s more, even the way you sleep can actually be the cause of this issue. To be more precise, if you sleep on your stomach with your head turned in one direction, you are highly likely to start experiencing this spasm and thus also somatic tinnitus.
- Ear Spasms
Given that we are dealing with sounds that come from our ears here, it would be a surprise for ear muscles and spasms not to get mentioned as one of the causes. Certain muscles located in the middle ear are actually responsible for the reduction of certain sounds that come from the outside and reach your body. When those muscles are in spasm, you are certainly going to experience somatic tinnitus (additional info).
Repetitive and synchronized contractions of those muscles can cause this type of tinnitus. It most often manifests as a clicking, thumping, or crackling noise in people’s ears. As you can see, muscle spasms are actually the number one cause of this specific issue, but there is something else that you’ll need to pay attention to and check if it might be causing those ringing noises in your ears. Let’s take a look at that third cause.
- Dental Issues
Certain dental issues are actually linked to somatic tinnitus and they can either cause it or make it worse than it was before. Impacted wisdom teeth, bruxism, and toothaches, in general, can all be the reason why you can start hearing those ringing and buzzing noises in your ears. So, if you have any of those problems and you suspect that they are causing your somatic tinnitus, the best thing to do is visit a dental specialist and let them solve the problem for you.
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorders
There is one more cause that I definitely need to mention since it is a rather common cause of this type of tinnitus. I am referring to any problems that might be linked to your TMJ. It connects the jaw to the skull and allows for free movement of the skull.
If it isn’t functioning properly, you might experience pain in the neck and ears, as well as migraines and the inability to open and close the jaw properly. In addition to causing somatic tinnitus, this particular problem can also cause hearing loss.
Mild TMJ issues will usually go away all on their own, but if the problem is severe and persistent, you will definitely need to visit a doctor and have them solve the issue for you. Your dentist can be of huge help here, so don’t forget to schedule an appointment if you are dealing with pain and problems in this particular area of your body. The bottom line is that it shouldn’t be left untreated.
How Can It Be Treated?
Speaking of treatments, now it’s time to take a look at how somatic tinnitus can actually be treated and cured. As you might have guessed it already, the treatment process will certainly depend on the actual causes of the problem.
There are also some things you can do in order to prevent this problem from appearing or from getting worse. For starters, you can improve your posture and make sure that your computer is placed at eye level if you are using it very often.
In addition to that, using the right pillow at night can make a huge difference and so can drinking the right amount of water during the day. Using too many pillows and sleeping on your stomach can worsen the problem. Carrying your bag on one shoulder can also cause or make somatic tinnitus worse. So, before seeking help, you might want to try and make these small lifestyle changes that can make all the difference.
Doing the right exercises can also help you get rid of somatic tinnitus. If you need to learn more about this condition in general, then I suggest you visit https://www.tinnitusjournal.com/articles/somatic-tinnitus-8696.html and have a thorough and detailed look into the problem. In any case, the point is that you will need to treat the issue one way or another. Ignoring it and leaving it untreated will not only be painful and annoying for you, but it will also become pretty much impossible after a while.
As explained above, the treatment process you will take depends on the cause of the problem. If you are dealing with neck spasms, doing certain neck exercises would be of huge help. If ear spasms are the problem, you should visit a specialist and let them give you the right guidelines for resolving the problem. The same goes for any dental issues that you might have.
To put things simply, somatic tinnitus is always caused by an underlying issue that you will need to resolve in order to succeed in getting rid of those noises in your ears. So, make sure to figure out the specific cause of your problem and then resort to the right treatment option. Of course, don’t forget to visit your doctor and have him or her explain the issue thoroughly and offer some advice on how to treat it.