Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tinnitus - Can Exercise Help?

A Ring of Truth to It

If you’re plagued by a constant ringing sound coming from inside your ears, you may be suffering from tinnitus. Recent research is revealing a surprising solution to getting rid of that ringing in the ears: Exercise!

What is Tinnitus?

jaw exercises
Ringing or buzzing in
the ears can be a sign
of tinnitus.
Tinnitus is a medical term for a ringing, swishing, or buzzing sound in the ears. By “in the ears” doctors mean that there is no external outside-the-ear sound causing it. In fact, Tinnitus is sometimes described in medical journals as the perception of sound in the head because, technically speaking, no outside sound is present so it is not a sound wave that causes the apparent noise. But whether or not the sound you hear is a noise or a perceived noise, the sound is not imaginary, and can be a serious problem to those who have more severe cases of it. So, after you've verified that the sound you’re hearing is not your alarm clock or some other noise from your environment, it’s time to consider getting your ears looked at by a physician.

One of the first things your doctor will tell you is that tinnitus is not a disease. Rather, it is commonly considered a symptom of an underlying condition, which is why it’s important to look at the known causes, both for diagnosis and for prevention.

What causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus can be brought on by hearing loss.
Hearing loss brought on by loud noise is considered the most common cause. Those who frequently listen to music with in-ear headphones at high volume, or those who work in loud environments often experience tinnitus. But there is a variety of underlying causes, including foreign objects in the ear, nasal allergies from blocked passages, neurological damage, severe or lasting ear infections, and more. The inner ear contains countless tiny hair cells that vibrate in the presence of sound waves. Damage to the receptor cells that capture the incoming sound waves is believed to be a common cause of the ringing sound.

Who is at risk?

According to a 2007 study, Prevalence of tinnitus and audiometric shape, Tinnitus is quite common, with about 20 percent of those between the ages of 55 and 65 reporting tinnitus symptoms when asked on a general health questionnaire. Ringing sounds in the ear are likely experienced by everyone at one time or another – but for most it’s often just a brief period of mild ringing or other sounds in the ear. It might be mild enough that, unless the person is in a soundproof booth, they may not even be aware of the ringing.

That said, there are certain individuals who are at a higher level of risk. This includes smokers, the elderly (since most cases of tinnitus come from hearing loss that often accompanies aging), and those who live or work in environments with loud noises, resulting in acoustic trauma (hearing damage). Other risk factors include whiplash injuries or a significant impact trauma to the ear or head, as well as excessive bike riding with the neck in a hyper-extended position, blood flow issues, high blood pressure, nerve problems, and many diseases.

How can exercise help? 

There are many treatments suggested for tinnitus. Exercise is a relatively new treatment. Other tinnitus treatments or tinnitus management techniques may include tinnitus maskers, hypnosis, electrical stimulation, counseling, sound machines, biofeedback, and relaxation therapy.

The connection between tinnitus and treatment by exercise came about as doctors noticed that nearly half of those who suffer from tinnitus also suffer from temporomandibular joint disease, which (thankfully) is also referred to as simply TMJ. TMJ is a disorder of the jaw joints and connective tissues. As you may have already considered, your ears are right next to those joints and connective tissues. According to the American Tinnitus Association, symptom relief may be available by employing certain physical therapy jaw exercises and facial exercises that are often prescribed for people with TMJ.

Exercises to Relieve Ringing in the Ears

LiveStrong has identified several therapeutic exercises that may help alleviate the inner ear symptoms of tinnitus, which are summarized below.
  • Max Opening - techniques to widen your mouth opening capabilities.
  • Assisted Opening - expands on the max opening exercise by using your fingers to extend the opening further.
  • Lateral Movement - increases your jaw’s flexibility from side to side.
  • Midline Exercise - develops linear alignment of the jaw.
  • Feel-Good Teeth Tap - tapping your top and bottom teeth gently together while smiling. This exercise is also reported to be useful to reduce stress.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer


  1. Thank you April 07, 2016... I will try exercise...