Are you noticing a clicking, thumping, or buzzing sound in your ears? Do you also happen to feel stressed or anxious? If so, you could be experiencing tonic tensor tympani syndrome. If you’ve never heard of this condition, you’re not alone. Tonic tensor tympani syndrome is not common, and most people likely aren’t familiar with it.
While tonic tensor tympani syndrome (or TTTS) is not considered dangerous, it can cause a lot of frustration for anyone who experiences it. So what exactly is TTTS? And how is it treated? Read on for all you need to know.
What Is Tonic Tensor Tympani Syndrome?
Tonic tensor tympani syndrome is a condition that involves a decreased contraction threshold and involuntary contractions and spasms of the tensor tympani muscle. This can lead to chronic ear pain in anticipation of being exposed to a perception of harmful sound.
Individuals with TTTS usually complain of oversensitivity to sound, occasional tinnitus, and some vague form of dizziness.
What Is the Tensor Tympani Muscle?
The tensor tympani muscle is a small muscle located in the middle ear that is responsible for protecting the delicate structures of your inner ear and for dampening loud sounds.
Your middle ear is responsible for delivering sound waves from your outer ear to your cochlea. When you’re exposed to loud sounds, your tensor tympani muscle contracts.
Causes of Tonic Tensor Tympani Syndrome
While there’s not yet a lot of research on tonic tensor tympani syndrome, we do know that it’s most common in individuals who have tinnitus or hyperacusis, also known as sound sensitivity. Hyperacusis makes it difficult for individuals to experience everyday sounds. Studies have shown that the more severe a case of hyperacusis, the worse TTTS symptoms tend to be.
It’s also believed that anxiety plays a role in TTTS. Anxiety could reduce the threshold that’s required to trigger the tensor tympani muscle. Anxiety plays a role in muscle tension, including the muscles of the middle ear. And anxiety and the perception of sound involve similar neural pathways in the brain. The symptoms of TTTS can make existing anxiety worse in some individuals, which in turn makes their symptoms worsen—causing an endless cycle.
What Are Tensor Tympani Syndrome Symptoms?
When your tensor tympani muscle contracts in an exaggerated or sustained way, it can cause various symptoms, including:
When your tensor tympani muscle contracts, you might experience a sharp pain or a dull ache in your ear. You may also experience pain in your jaw area or along the side of your neck, and you could have headaches. This occurs when the trigeminal nerve that activates the tympani syndrome is irritated.
Numbness and burning sensations:
You may experience a sensation of numbness or burning in and around your ear when the trigeminal nerve is irritated.
When your tensor tympani muscle contracts rapidly, you might hear clicking, buzzing, or thumping sounds.
A fluttering sensation:
You might notice that your eardrum seems to be fluttering. This is caused by your tensor tympani muscle contracting and relaxing.
A feeling of fullness:
TTTS can cause a sensation of pressure or fullness in your ears, which is similar to having clogged ears.
Some people suffering from tonic tensor tympani syndrome might have distortions in their perception of sound. Some sounds might be perceived as muffled.
TTTS can cause a sensation of mild vertigo or a feeling of being off balance. This can also cause nausea.
Treating Tonic Tensor Tympani Syndrome
If you think you might be experiencing symptoms of tonic tensor tympani syndrome, you should make an appointment with your audiologist.
While there’s no cure for tonic tensor tympani syndrome, if your audiologist determines that you’re suffering from the condition, there are options that can help you manage your symptoms.
Calming techniques like meditation, yoga, and talk therapy can help you learn to cope with the symptoms of TTTS and tinnitus. And since TTTS can flare up during times of stress, finding ways to relax can actually reduce the frequency of symptoms.
Sound therapy and tinnitus retraining therapy can help to desensitize your ears to the clicking, thumping, or buzzing sounds you hear. The goal is to train your brain to see the sounds as non-threatening and to stop focusing on them.
Tonic Tensor Tympani Syndrome Treatment in New England
If you or a loved one thinks you might be experiencing tonic tensor tympani syndrome, our team at AVI New England is here to help.
Our very own Dr. Bauman has developed proprietary treatment techniques for sound sensitivity cases, making him the expert to turn to. Schedule your sound sensitivity evaluation here or give our office a call at 475-227-0842