The first time you ever experienced ringing in your ears was probably when you were a youngster. Maybe your parents took you to a fireworks show. Maybe you went to a loud concert. Indeed, short-term exposure to elevated noise levels can be a cause of tinnitus (the medical term for ringing in the ears), and it typically goes away after a day or two. In this case, it’s a little annoying, but not that big a deal.
But if you find yourself as an adult experiencing a more chronic or intense form of tinnitus, it can be a very big deal. Sometimes the ringing is more of a buzzing or some other sort of noise. Sometimes tinnitus can come and go. Or tinnitus can be with you all the time.
Whatever the form, the ringing or noises can be so loud and distracting that you can’t hear what people are saying to you. You can have difficulty concentrating. Your school or professional work suffers. You can get so frustrated or depressed that you withdraw from life. The frustration can grow worse because tinnitus can have a variety of causes, and it can be hard to determine which one it is.
After all, tinnitus itself isn’t a medical condition. It’s symptomatic of a condition. Some of the conditions include:
- exposure to loud noises
- excessive earwax
- presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss
- otosclerosis, a disorder causing bone growth in the ear
- Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorders
This last one is what concerns us here at BC Head Pain Institute. The Temporomandibular Joint connects the lower jaw to the skull; it’s what allows you to bite up and down, thrust the jaw forward, or move it from side to side. In other words, this joint is a mechanically complicated area of the body, and it can become imbalanced. One possible outcome of imbalanced forces is tinnitus or a persistent ringing in your ears.
Our treatment begins with an individualized analysis of your bite to understand the different forces at work in your mouth and jaw. If we find irregularities, we know we are probably getting close to the cause of your tinnitus. To correct imbalances, we use laser therapy, trigger-point manipulation, ultrasound, and other techniques, but we don’t use drugs or anything invasive. Our therapies run over a series of sessions, and when the sessions are over, our patients are amazed at how well they can hear again and are so grateful to us that the horrible noises in their heads have finally ceased.
What is BC HeadPain Institute?
BC HeadPain Institute was founded by Dr. Lun Wang, orthodontist and founder of PacificWest Dental, to offer pain management that is an alternative to drugs and medication for chronic sufferers. BC HeadPain Institute offers a comprehensive system that treats many different orofacial disorders including headaches, migraines, tinnitus, vertigo and temporomandibular joint disorders by progressively adjusting the way that your teeth bite together.
The temporomandibular joint is the delicate ball joint of your jaw; it is what allows your jaw to open and close and move from side to side. The human jaw exerts enormous amounts of force, and any kind of change to the way that it moves can cause imbalances over time that often result in chronic pain not only in the jaw, but also in the network of nerves that run through the neck, face, and head.
What would change the way that my jaw moves?
You name it — extensive or poorly done dental work, physical trauma from sports or car accidents, excessive gum chewing, teeth grinding, or even just quirky one-sided chewing habits. Just like any other joint, the TMJ is susceptible to injury over time — imbalances in the way that your teeth bite together or the way that your jaw moves can stress the muscles and nerves that run through the face and jaw.
So, BC HeadPain Institute essentially offers a rehabilitation system for the mouth and jaw.
Yes. Basic treatments for these types of disorders (usually some form of mouthpiece) have been around for years, but our therapy is a more comprehensive rehabilitative approach that borrows heavily from the most recent advances in sports medicine. Like any other joint or muscle injury these disorders can require careful care over the course of several weeks or months, and our team received specialized training in treating the entire spectrum.
But my jaw doesn’t hurt. Does this mean that my TMJ is healthy, and my headaches or other symptoms must be caused by something else?
This is where it gets tricky, and why TMJ problems are so often left undiagnosed and untreated — bite imbalances and TMJ problems frequently don’t manifest just as actual jaw or facial pain. The abnormal muscle tension caused by bite imbalances can wreak havoc on the complex network of nerves and ligaments that run through the face and neck, causing neck pain, chronic headaches/migraines, facial soreness, tinnitus or ear pain, and even vertigo.
If my jaw doesn’t even hurt, how is the team at BC HeadPain able to figure out if I have issues with my TMJ or other parts of my face, neck and jaw?
Our rehabilitative system is designed around resolving issues related to the TMJ, so a proper diagnosis before treatment is essential — this is why the system includes a complete battery of diagnostic tests that can precisely measure any imbalances in the way that your teeth bite together. Part of this diagnostic process is technology that measures the pressure when you bite down, and creates a 3D map of your mouth that shows the precise forces exerted right down to each individual tooth. Dr. Wang will be able to tell right away if your bite is misaligned, and whether continuing treatment will be worthwhile.
How long does the rehabilitation process take?
Joint injuries can be complicated and every patient is different, but even the most severe TMJ disorders can be resolved in as few as eight treatments. Like a sports injury, the treatment time can depend on how an individual’s muscles and ligaments respond to the therapy as well as the severity of the problem. And like traditional injury rehabilitation programs, the focus of the treatments themselves is tailored to each individual case.
What are the treatments like?
Don’t worry — your appointments will be free of any poking, prodding, or scraping. Each treatment is completely non-invasive and drug-free, and a large part of rehabilitation process involves gentle pain-relief technology like ultrasound, microcurrent, and cold laser therapies.
What about insurance?
Every insurance provider is different — we offer to contact your Insurance provider on your behalf to see what coverages may be available. Sometimes insurance providers seem reluctant to provide cost coverage for migraine-related treatments, and it might take some persistence to get approval.
How do I get started?
Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact us today to get started.
Any questions or comments? Feel free to contact us or browse our website for more information.