While there’s currently no cure for somatic tinnitus, there are treatments to help relieve your symptoms.

Tinnitus refers to the perception of sound without an external source ― in other words, hearing sound that no one else hears. We typically associate tinnitus with ringing in the ears, but it can also sound like roaring, buzzing, humming, whistling, hissing, or clicking.

Tinnitus that worsens with body movement or manipulation is known as somatosensory tinnitus, or somatic tinnitus. “Somatosensory” refers to the systems in the body that are involved in processing sensations, like pressure, pain, and movement.

Below, we’ll share everything you need to know about somatic tinnitus, including causes, diagnosis, treatment, and more.

Tinnitus itself is not necessarily a condition, but rather a symptom of other health conditions. According to research, there are several factors that may contribute to someone developing tinnitus:

  • hearing damage or loss
  • medications that affect hearing
  • infection and illness
  • head or neck trauma
  • psychological stress
  • temporomandibular disorders
  • other medical conditions

Researchers still aren’t entirely sure of the underlying mechanisms that cause somatic tinnitus. However, most experts believe that it’s likely due to abnormalities in the different parts of the central nervous system, especially the auditory and somatic systems.

Tinnitus can cause a variety of different sounds, from ringing and buzzing, to whistling, humming, and more. And because somatosensory tinnitus is subjective, only the person experiencing the sounds can hear them.

Somatic tinnitus can vary in severity, but the distinguishing feature of this type of tinnitus is that it worsens with movement or touch. Early research suggests that roughly 65% of people with tinnitus have this type of tinnitus.

If you experience somatosensory tinnitus, you might notice that your symptoms worsen when you:

  • move your fingers, face, or mouth
  • move or rotate your head or neck muscles
  • move your eyes horizontally or vertically
  • touch certain areas of your hands, fingers, or face
  • put pressure on certain trigger points in your face

Some people with somatic tinnitus also experience other physical symptoms, including neck pain, jaw clenching, and other symptoms of temporomandibular disorders.

Is somatic tinnitus constant?

People tend to experience tinnitus differently, depending on the type and severity. Some types of tinnitus, like pulsatile tinnitus, may be present constantly ― while other types, like somatic tinnitus, tend to fluctuate.

If you have somatosensory tinnitus, you might notice that you only hear it when you move your head or look from side to side, for example. Or you might not notice it at all until you touch or put pressure on certain areas of your face or jaw.

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One of the first steps toward treating tinnitus is to address the condition that’s causing it ― if there is one. For somatic tinnitus, this commonly includes conditions affecting the head or neck, like temporomandibular disorders.

Research has explored a handful of effective treatment options targeted specifically toward somatic tinnitus, including:

  • stabilization splits for temporomandibular joint disorders
  • manual therapy for temporomandibular dysfunction
  • spinal manipulation for head and neck disorders
  • local anesthetics to deactivate facial trigger points
  • electrical nerve stimulation for facial trigger points
  • laser, magnet, or pressure therapy for myofascial pain
  • repetitive movement-based head and neck therapies
  • muscle relaxation techniques for the head and neck

In addition to these targeted therapies, several other treatments can help reduce the impact that tinnitus can have, such as:

  • Medications: Certain medications, like anti-anxiety and antidepressant drugs, can help make it easier for people to live with the stress and anxiety that tinnitus can cause.
  • Sound therapies: Hearing aids, sound-masking devices, and other sound-based therapies can help reduce the severity of tinnitus symptoms for some people.
  • Behavioral therapies: Behavioral approaches like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can also help people learn how to cope with the emotional impact of tinnitus.

When combined with other treatment options, at-home treatments like regular exercise and neck-based exercises may also help reduce the severity of somatic tinnitus.

Can somatic tinnitus be cured?

If you’re experiencing somatic tinnitus because of another health condition, this is known as secondary tinnitus. Secondary tinnitus usually goes away once you treat the underlying condition that’s causing it.

But if there’s no clear underlying cause for your somatic tinnitus, this is known as primary tinnitus or idiopathic tinnitus. Idiopathic tinnitus has no cure ― but treatment can help reduce the severity and impact of symptoms.

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Somatic tinnitus is a subtype of tinnitus that appears or worsens with bodily movement or touch.

Some of the most common triggers of somatic tinnitus include movement of the head, neck, or limbs, eye movements, and pressure or tension in the face, jaw, or neck.

If you’ve noticed that your tinnitus gets worse with movement or when you touch certain parts of your body, consider reaching out to your doctor. Together, you can figure out if there’s an underlying cause so that you can get the treatment you need to feel better.