Could symptoms of hearing loss and/or ear fullness be associated with a temporomandibular disorder (TMJ) ? The answer is "yes" for a patient recently studied and cited in the Journal of the American Dental Association (March 2015.) The article describes a 73-year-old woman who complained of irritating fullness in her left ear and hearing loss, as well as a watery sensation in her ear. An otolaryngologist was consulted, but could not provide any treatment that would successfully address the debilitating ear symptoms.
Upon further examination at the USC dental clinic, some other, more subtle, dentally related symptoms were noted. In particular, the patient showed signs of coarse grinding in the joint, sore facial muscles, and pain upon palpation in the left TMJ. A radiograph also revealed some degenerative changes in that joint. Subsequent physical therapy, which the patient was able to do at home on her own, a full arch stabilization splint, and localized steroid treatment produced a 90% improvement.
This case shows that a TMJ disorder could be lurking behind seemingly unrelated symptoms involving the ear and hearing loss. If you are experiencing similar symptoms in your ear, do not rule out a trip to the dentist!