It can be a nightmare when you witness a series of muscle spasms in the ear. How can you react? What can you do to stop it?
What can cause something to go wrong in your ear? Which treatments are available to treat something that is deep down in your ear?
According to the Hearing Health Foundation, from the year 2000 to 2015, the number of patients with hearing loss in America has doubled, and the number in the global landscape is up by 44%. Approximately 25 million American adults have been reported as victims of tinnitus.
Although the diagnosis of different types of tinnitus is going on, the rarest type of tinnitus is called the Middle Ear Myoclonus (MEM).
MEM causes ear muscle spasms that are very loud, to the point that someone standing next to you can hear them.
These types of muscle spasms can be uncomfortable and terrifying; they can easily interfere with your daily undertakings, increasing the level of stress in your body.
But the good news is that there are quite some non-invasive procedures that can help to stop these muscle spasms.
What causes Ear Muscle Spasms?
Why do people get muscle spasms in the ear? There are various factors that contribute to the ear muscle spams, but how it leads to the fluttering sound is not clear.
Most cases of tinnitus are linked to a damaged auditory system; these include nerves, auditory structures, and even blood supply.
To dig deep into the causes of the fluttering sound, let us look at the most common causes:
A bacterial infection is responsible for a sinus infection which causes the sinuses to fill up with fluid, which results in increased pressure in the sinus, which is followed by some pain.
When the facial pressure increases, the fluttering sound is heard, and you might start to feel dizzy, nauseous and have a headache.
This is a very common cause of tinnitus. When you have high blood pressure, it causes the blood to push against the delicate ear structures which cause a flattering sound. Incidents of increased stress, alcohol and consumption of caffeine can worsen tinnitus.
Some of the conditions that can contribute to the increase in blood pressure in the blood vessels include:
- Neck and head tumors.
- Malformation of capillaries.
- Turbulent blood flow.
Eustachian tube dysfunction
When you experience an abnormality in the small tubes connecting the area between the upper throat and the back of the nose, it can cause tinnitus.
The role of the eustachian tube is to circulate air in the middle ear and maintain a balance between the inner ear air pressure in and out of the ear pressure.
To witness the difference in pressure, high altitude changes bring about the difference, as you will hear a popping sound in the ear.
When you have an allergic reaction or a respiratory infection that is blocking the tube, fluid accumulation may occur.
The pressure inside the ear will become higher than its normal levels, and a fluttering sound will be heard when you are yawning.
This is the leading cause of tinnitus; ear wax can dry up and cover the eardrum. Since the eardrum is an important part of the hearing process, when you have a hard, dry substance like wax can lead to loud vibrations of the eardrum.
The thyroid gland is responsible for the regulation of energy in our bodies. Additionally, it plays a part in the regulation of hormones.
Thyroid complications such as Hypothyroidism can lead to increased sensitivity to pain, low energy levels, weight gain, and tinnitus.
Tonic tensor tympani syndrome (TTTS)
TTTS is a result of elevated anxiety that results in a flexible reflex threshold for this muscle, which leads to regular spasms that are not easy to control without treatment.
What is the tensor tympani muscles?
The stapedius and tensor tympani muscles are protective reflexes. They are responsible for the reduction of sound that gets to the inner ear.
The best way to picture them is comparing them to the blink reflex. Since these muscles can be triggered by noise, both muscles “go off.”
It is the same effect when an eye is irritated, and both eyes begin to blink continuously. Just the way blinks occur, the protective reflexes of the ear can become loud enough when someone is stressed.
How Tinnitus comes about
The Middle Ear Myoclonus (MEM) is one of the rarest forms of tinnitus. It is regarded as the known cause of dysfunctional movements in the stapedius and the tensor tympani muscles. A clicking noise starts to echo once the tensor tympani starts to spasm.
Now, when the stapedius muscles start to spasm, a buzzing noise is heard. The major causes of MEM are stressful loud noises, or palate or facial nerves spasms.
Although spasms can be experienced either in one or both ears, levels of stress contribute to the increase in the symptoms.
How to treat ear muscle spasms
What procedures can be undertaken to treat something that is deep down in the ears? Although it seems to be a difficult process to undertake, there are several ways in which muscles spasm can be eliminated, and normal ear operations to resume.
As we mentioned at the beginning, non-invasive treatments work best for this kind of condition, especially, if the symptoms are identified early.
One common procedure is a series of Botox injections directed at the Eustachian tube. Although this is a reasonable treatment option, a doctor who is experienced with the anatomy if the TT should be responsible for this process.
These injections are taken for a few months, but the injections become expensive as time goes by.
Using high blood pressure meds to treat chronic high blood pressure can be used to keep the blood pressure at normal levels.
Using a steam bath can help to decongest the sinus which helps to relieve the clogged ears. A well-treated steam bath with eucalyptus can help.
For the types of tinnitus related to stress, coping strategies for relaxation are often used as a standard treatment. Techniques such as the use of sedatives, hypnosis, acupuncture, psychotherapy, and biofeedback can be administered.
For extreme cases that need surgery, a procedure that is called tympanostomy can be performed, according to ENT Columbia.
Muscle spasms medications
ENT doctors can prescribe a varied number of medications to treat ear muscle spasms. According to Wood and Jufas, they conducted six clinical trials where Clonazepam was found to be an effective drug to counter tinnitus.
According to Dr. Shulman who conducted a drug trial in 30 patients, the use of Klonopin and Neurontin helped to lower the annoyance of tinnitus, and lower the intensity of tinnitus respectively.
Therapy was done alongside the treatments for a period of between 4 to 6 weeks, as continued dosage continued depending on the patient’s response.
Side effects of spasms medications
Potential side effects of Neurontin and Klonopin include nausea or drowsiness, vertigo, visual disturbance, cognitive interference, memory loss, and headache.
Biofeedback and neurofeedback as treatments
One of the powerful treatments to emerge in the recent years is the use of biofeedback and neurofeedback. These procedures are non-invasive, and they don’t involve the use of medications.
Instead, they allow the patient and the doctor to analyze the biological processes that occur while the symptoms are happening.
According to Arches Natural Products, biofeedback therapy is widely used as a treatment of tinnitus in House Ear Institute in LA, and in the Tinnitus Clinic located at the Health Sciences University in Oregon, Portland.
The House Ear Institute patients were given one biofeedback sessions that span between 10 to 12 sessions over a period of 6-12 months.
At Cornell University, seven subjects were treated within a 5-month program that used weekly biofeedback sessions.
Although the loudness of tinnitus still persisted, three patients reported great psychological benefits on how to handle tinnitus, 2 patients experienced modest gains, and 2 patients described moderate improvement.
When it comes to neurofeedback, it is the most recent treatment as it focuses on the brain’s processes that are potentially causing muscle spasms. In this procedure, four brainwaves are monitored using an electroencephalogram machine.
The four brainwaves are relaxation brainwaves (alpha), alertness brainwaves (beta), deep sleep brainwaves (delta) and light sleep brainwaves (Theta).
In this treatment, patients are trained on how to increase their alpha signals to be more at ease and to decrease beta signals. To boost the alpha brainwaves, some studies have indicated the use of soothing music.
Although neurofeedback is relatively new, it is hard to identify the neurofeedback centers without a referral from your neurologist.
Zygomatic hand pressure technique
If you are new to this kind of technique, don’t worry, because it has not gained enough attention yet, although it is a treatment that is used for the treatment of MEM. But how does it work?
Well, once the first clicking sound in the ear is heard, interlace our fingers and position the palm heels over the zygomatic bone’s lateral area; this is the area that forms the major part of the cheeks.
Apply moderate pressure on the palm heels, but be careful not to obstruct the airway.
The Zygomatic hand pressure technique should be done for 30 seconds. For most people, the clicking noises are suppressed afterward.
Below is a technique that you can use to stop tinnitus as it happens.