Somatosensory Tinnitus: Correlation between Cranio-Cervico-Mandibular Disorder History and Somatic Modulation

Audiol Neurootol. 2016;21(6):372-382. doi: 10.1159/000452472. Epub 2017 Jan 19.


In a subpopulation of patients, tinnitus can be modulated by movements of the jaw or head and neck due to complex somatosensory-auditory interactions. In some of these subjects, tinnitus could be related to an underlying temporomandibular (TMJ) or craniocervical (NECK) dysfunction that, if correctly identified, could streamline treatment and increase chances of tinnitus improvement. However, it is still unclear whether somatic modulation of tinnitus could be used as a screening tool for identifying such patients. In this study, we included 310 tinnitus patients with normal hearing, no psychiatric comorbidities, and a positive history of TMJ and/or NECK dysfunction and/or a positive modulation of tinnitus to evaluate the characteristics of somatic modulation, investigate the relationship between positive history and positive modulation, and identify factors most strongly associated with somatic modulation. Tinnitus modulation was present in 79.67% of the patients. We found a significant association within the same subjects between a positive history and a positive tinnitus modulation for the same region, mainly for TMJ in unilateral tinnitus patients and for TMJ + NECK in bilateral tinnitus patients. A strong correlation between history and modulation in the same somatic region within the same subgroups of subjects was also identified. Most TMJ maneuvers resulted in an increased loudness, while NECK maneuvers showed an increase in tinnitus loudness in about 59% of cases. High-pitched tinnitus and male gender were associated with a higher prevalence of modulation; no differences were found for tinnitus onset, Tinnitus Handicap Inventory score, and age. In this paper, we report a strong association between history and modulation for the same regions within the same patients; such an association should always be investigated to improve chances of a correct diagnosis of somatosensory tinnitus.

Keywords: Head disorders; Neck disorders; Somatosensory tinnitus; Temporomandibular disorders; Tinnitus modulation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cervical Vertebrae / physiopathology
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Neck / physiopathology
  • Sex Factors
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders / epidemiology
  • Temporomandibular Joint Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Tinnitus / epidemiology
  • Tinnitus / physiopathology*
  • Young Adult