Tinnitus is a subjective condition, meaning that the symptom is generally only noticeable to the person suffering from it. However, there are some clinical methods to measuring its audiometric qualities and its impact on the patient. The first step is appropriately diagnosing tinnitus, so how is this condition evaluated?
A trained audiologist or other hearing health professional has tools and clinical protocols to help them to evaluate and diagnose tinnitus. Often, tinnitus is caused by hearing loss – so the first step is to evaluate a patient’s overall hearing health. Tests for this can include:
- Acoustic Reflex Testing;
- Speech Recognition Testing;
- Pure Tone Audiograms;
- Tympanograms; and
- Otoacousc Emission Testing.
Often, gaps in a patient’s hearing correlate to the nature of their issue with tinnitus. Additionally, different markers found by the above tests may point in various types of treatment for the tinnitus.
When evaluating a patient’s case of tinnitus, several methods are use to test the patient’s perception of their tinnitus for sound, pitch, and volume. Tests may include:
- Sound matching;
- Masking level; and
- Loudness discomfort level.
In some extreme cases, a doctor may recommend an MRI depending on the patient’s medical history and specific tinnitus presentations.
Tinnitus can affect so much more than just a patient’s hearing – it may have serious negative effect on the mental, cognitive, and physical health of the patient as well. One of the major factors a physician needs to determine when evaluating tinnitus is not how loud the sound is, but rather how much the condition is negatively impacting the patient’s life.
Because of this, health professionals and researchers use the above tests to determine tinnitus diagnoses, but also use a variety of specific tests such as a reaction questionnaire, a severity index, and a function index. When combined, all these tests will help the professional to diagnose tinnitus.
The cause of a headache is often hard to be identified. However, one very common reason for getting a headache can actually be found in the neck – resulting from muscle tension and trigger points.
At the base of the skull there is a group of muscles, the suboccipital muscles which can be the beginnings of a headache for many people. These four pairs of muscles are responsible for subtle movements between the skull and the first and second vertebrae in the neck. These muscles can become sore and tender due to many factors such as eye strain, wearing new eyeglasses, poor work ergonomics, teeth grinding, slouching, or trauma.
Pain resulting from suboccipital muscles often feels like a band wrapping around the head, and sometimes over the eyes.
Relief for Suboccipital Headaches
- If you believe you are suffering from headaches resulting from the suboccipital muscles, some of these options may help to relieve the pain:
- Seek an eye examination with your optometrist. You may be straining your eyes if your eyes have changed since your last exam;
- Redesign your workstation. You may be getting headaches from poor ergonomics at work – raising your computer monitor or moving your desk so that you do not have to crane your neck may help with headaches;
- Correct your posture. Consider gentle exercise such as yoga or pilates to encourage proper self-carriage;
- Apply a hot pack to the base of the neck for 15-20 minute intervals when you experience a tension headache.
Headaches that feel like a band around the head or run through the eyes are often a form of tension headache, caused by the muscles in the neck. Use this guide to combat them.
Diagnosing neck pain can involve an array of exams and tests in order to make an accurate diagnosis. Often, acute (short term) neck pain isn’t very serious and may be caused by a minor muscle strain or sprain – but chronic ongoing neck pain is typically something more serious.
If you are experiencing neck pains, make an appointment with your care provider to diagnose your pain – especially if it is coupled with other new symptoms as well. Your doctor will help you to diagnose the cause of your pain and to develop a treatment plan to help you manage the pain.
Your doctor will perform an exam to diagnose the source of your neck pain. They may evaluate your posture, physical condition, and note any movements that cause the pain. Your doctor may also note the alignment of your spine, test your muscle strength and reflexes, and evaluate whether or not the pain travels to other points in the body. To complete the diagnosis, your doctor may want you to go for further testing such as an x-ray, CT scan, or MRI.
Common neck pain symptoms may include:
- Burning pain;
- Soreness on one or both sides;
- Numbness in the arm or hand;
- Tingling in the arm or hand.
If any of these symptoms are persistent, it is recommended to seek medical care urgently. Additionally, if you are experiencing difficulty breathing, swallowing, or talking; severe tenderness; very high fever; or pain which radiates down the arms and legs, you should seek immediate care.
Neck pain may have a number of potential sources. If you are experiencing neck pain, see your doctor for a thorough evaluation to ensure it is properly diagnosed and treated.
If you are a sufferer of Temporomandibular joint disorder, it may be worth your while to look into posture training and exercise to deal with TMJ disorder. According to some TMJ experts, your posture could be the sole culprit for your jaw pain and there is a fairly easy way to alleviate symptoms.
What is TMJ Disorder?
Your Temporomandibular joint is the joint in your jaw that connects the mandible (the bone of the lower jaw) to the temporal bones of the skull on either side of the head. Symptoms of TMJ disorder include:
- Jaw pain
- Pain in the face muscles
- Grinding and clicking of the jaw
- Stiffness of the jaw muscles
- Locking of the jaw.
The disorder can range from a slight nuisance to severely debilitating, as it can impact your ability to eat, breathe, talk, and sleep. Approxamitely 12 percent of the population suffers from a TMJ disorder at any given time.
- Common treatments for TMJ disorder include:
- Pain medications
- Stabilization splint or bite guard
- Orthodontic treatments
- Crown or bridge work
But, other easier options may be a possibility.
Exercise and Posture for TMJ Disorders
From an alignment perspective, the human head should be sitting directly on top of the shoulders. When the head is not sitting in it’s intended position, it strains the surrounding muscles – however, the muscles in the TMJ joint were not intended for heavy lifting. When they are given the added task of holding up your head, they go into “lock down” and the jaw looses its ability to move freely.
To restore correct posture, exercises can be used that may end up helping with TMJ pain. Keeping up with routine and posture stretches daily may help to combat your TMJ pain. To start, try standing against a wall with your heels and hips touching the wall. Does your head easily and naturally touch the wall too? Or do you have to put effort into putting your head back? If the latter is true, you may need to see a professional who can help you come up with an exercise plan to combat your TMJ symptoms.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) joint disorder may be an underlying cause of your unexplained neck pain. These disorders are often overlooked when trying to analyze neck pain, but they can be the main culprit.
When the jaw becomes dislocated, the surrounding muscles go into spasm – including the neck muscles. Symptoms of TMJ disorders can include neck pain, stiffness, wry neck, numbness in the neck, inability to turn the head to one or both sides, joint sounds during neck movement, and arthritis in the neck.
Neck pain from TMJ can be caused by degeneration of muscles, ligaments, and bone, or from congenital abnormalities in the joint. Disorders that include hypermobility can also lead to jaw dislocations and damage to the bone and ligament of the jaw. The muscles controlling the movement of the jaw can also cause neck pain by pulling the TMJ out of position and causing the joint to move incorrectly.
The muscles in your body work as a team – when the muscles in your jaw are not moving or working correctly, they can negatively effect the surrounding muscles such as those in your neck. The bones in your neck, especially the atlas and axis, are very involved with the muscles that are used for chewing, biting, talking, breathing, and head posture. If sore, tight muscles in the jaw are causing a tilt in the head and shoulders – the neck will compensate for that.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms along with your neck pain, it may be worthwhile to see your dentist to check for TMJ disorders:
- Clicking jaw noises;
- Facial pain;
- Jaw pain;
- Tooth Sensitivity or Pain.
If you are experiencing neck pain and haven’t been able to get an answer to explain it, it may be worth looking into TMJ disorders to see if this may be causing your neck pain. The fix may be TMJ treatment.