Saturday, May 02, 2020

Somatic Tinnitus


This video was private for several years, first posted in 2011.

My tinnitus (a ringing in my left ear) started on July 7th at the same time I got sick with flu-like symptoms. It's a kind of metallic screech and very stressful to hear constantly. I went to my doctor, who sent me to an ENT guy, who sent me to get a thorough audiological workup. My hearing checked out fine (audiologist said I have very good hearing). The tympanogram results were also excellent. The ENT guy examined my jaw and said he suspected TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint Disorder ). He referred me to a neurologist and told me to see my dentist too.

The neurologist ordered an MRI of my brain. She suspected a brain tumor pressing on the auditory nerve. The results were negative. I had better luck with my dentist, who started me on an Invisalign treatment to correct a misalignment of my jaw. The treatment eventually relived most of the symptoms. However, recent sources of stress have brought it all back: hernia surgery, the death of my twin brother, Covid-19 and my having to teach from home.

In technical terms, what happens with somatic tinnitus is that neural fibers in the trigeminal ganglion transmit temporomandibular information to the brain. These fibers project into the auditory system, thereby enabling movement and pressue on the jaw to modulate the pitch or loudness of the tinnitus.

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