Exploring the middle ear function in patients with a cluster of symptoms including tinnitus, hyperacusis, ear fullness and/or pain

Hear Res. 2022 Sep 1:422:108519. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2022.108519. Epub 2022 May 13.

Abstract

Middle ear muscle (MEM) abnormalities have been proposed to be involved in the development of ear-related symptoms such as tinnitus, hyperacusis, ear fullness, dizziness and/or otalgia. This cluster of symptoms have been called the Tonic Tensor Tympani Syndrome (TTTS) because of the supposed involvement of the tensor tympani muscle (TTM). However, the putative link between MEM dysfunction and the symptoms has not been proven yet and the detailed mechanisms (the causal chain) of TTTS are still elusive. It has been speculated that sudden loud sound (acoustic shock) may impair the functioning of the MEM, specifically the TTM, after an excessive contraction. This would result in inflammatory processes, activation of the trigeminal nerve and a change of the MEMs state into a hypersensitive one, that may be associated to the cluster of symptoms listed above. The goal of this study is to provide further insights into the mechanisms of TTTS. The middle ear function of 11 patients who reported TTTS symptoms has been investigated using either admittancemetry and/or measurement of air pressure in the sealed external auditory canal. While the former method measured the middle ear stiffness the latter provides an estimate of the tympanic membrane displacement. Most patients displayed results consistent with phasic contractions of the TTM (n = 9) and/or Eustachian Tube (ET) dysfunction (n = 6). The MEM contraction or ET dysfunction could be evoked by acoustic stimulation (n = 3), somatic maneuvers (n = 3), or pressure changes in the ear canal (n = 3). Spontaneous TTM contraction (n = 1) or ET opening (n = 1) could also be observed. Finally, voluntary contraction of MEM was also reported (n = 5). On the other hand, tonic contraction of the TTM could not be observed in any patient. The implications of these results for the mechanisms of TTTS are discussed.

Keywords: Acoustic shock; Hyperacusis; Middle ear; Middle ear myoclonus; Otalgia; Stapedius muscle; Tensor tympani; Tensor tympani syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ear Diseases*
  • Ear, Middle
  • Humans
  • Hyperacusis / diagnosis
  • Hyperacusis / etiology
  • Pain / complications
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Tensor Tympani / physiology
  • Tinnitus* / complications
  • Tinnitus* / etiology