Tinnitus is the perception of sound, usually a ringing or buzzing noise, without an external source or stimulus. Tinnitus affects approximately 10%-17% of the global population, and somatic tinnitus accounts for an estimated 65% of those cases.
The somatosensory system is responsible for perceiving touch pressure, pain and temperature. It serves three primary functions: perception of stimuli outside the body, perception of stimuli inside the body and control of the body’s position and function.
Somatic tinnitus is influenced by movements in the body. This means that tinnitus volume and pitch may be changed following different stimuli such as contractions of the head, neck and limbs and eye and facial movements.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Broad tinnitus develops as a result of causes or conditions including but not limited to:
- Hearing loss
- Ototoxic medications (medications that damage the hearing mechanisms of the ear)
- Physical trauma to the ear
- Loud noise exposure
Tinnitus can vary in frequency and intensity. Some may experience it only once or twice in their lives. For others, the internal ringing can be a constant companion.
Tinnitus is considered somatic when it is affected or triggered by movements or sensations within the body. For instance, if you notice your tinnitus is exacerbated when you chew during a meal at the Tropical drill, the movement of your jaw may enact somatic tinnitus ringing.
How Can You Manage Symptoms?
Somatic tinnitus management differs from that of broad tinnitus. With broad tinnitus, your symptom management generally focuses on sound masking with hearing aids, therapy and relaxation techniques. Somatic tinnitus management will combine the management techniques of broad tinnitus with a focus on the underlying cause of somatic symptoms.
An audiologist and neurologist will likely evaluate somatic tinnitus patients to determine the underlying cause. For instance, many cases of somatic tinnitus are triggered by muscular problems or temporomandibular joint disorder, a condition that causes pain in the jaw and, frequently, tinnitus. Following a diagnosis, your symptom management may include:
- Relaxing muscle tension in the jaw and neck
- Manual therapies to adjust the spine
- Myofascial trigger point deactivation through massage, stretching or injections
- Coordinated and repeated exercises to provide tinnitus relief
- Transcutaneous nerve stimulation
Learning about your somatic tinnitus triggers and management options early on can help minimize its impact on your life. Contact Elevate Audiology today to speak to one of our trusted specialists about your symptom management options.