Ear infections are no doubt painful. The throbbing, stabbing and relentless pain can plague some adults and children. But, in many cases, the cause of ear infections is not clear. There is a lot that we don’t know about them. One thing we do know for sure: They hurt! So what causes an infection to develop in your ears? It could be anything from bacteria or viruses entering through the eardrum to allergies causing swelling around the outer ear canal.
They can also be caused by poor tongue posture.
YES! In some cases, ear infections can be caused by poor oral resting posture and irregular swallowing patterns.
What Is Oral Resting Posture?
Oral resting posture refers to how your tongue rests in your mouth when you’re not eating, drinking or speaking. Proper oral posture means that, at rest, your tongue is touching the roof of the mouth, the teeth are touching or slightly apart, and your lips are together without strain.
How Can Poor Tongue Position Cause Ear Infections?
When your tongue is improperly placed during rest, it’s more likely to touch the back of your throat and irritate this area. When irritated, the tissue becomes inflamed and swollen. This inflammation may lead to fluid buildup, which then pushes against the eardrums. If left untreated, these fluids will eventually leak into the inner ear, creating pressure on the delicate nerve endings. These nerves send signals to the brain, telling us that something is wrong with our hearing. As a result, we feel dizzy, fatigued and have trouble concentrating — all symptoms associated with an ear infection.
So if improper tongue position leads to ear infections, why isn’t everyone getting infections all the time? It depends on several factors, including age, diet, lifestyle habits and genetics. Some people seem to get ear infections much more easily than others. Also, certain foods like dairy products and spicy food tend to aggravate any existing irritation. And finally, some people aren’t as good at maintaining proper oral posture while sleeping.
What Are the Signs of Poor Oral Resting Posture?
If you notice one or more of the following signs, chances are you need to improve your oral posture before you start experiencing ear problems:
- Lips are apart at rest
- Teeth are separated at rest
- Tongue touches back of the throat
- Throat feels tight
- Swallowing is difficult
- Difficulty breathing during meals
- Frequent colds
- Sore throats
- Neck pain
- Sinus headaches
- Runny nose
- Stuffy noses
- Trouble focusing
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Mouth breathing
Improper tongue posture can also affect the posture of your whole body, causing your head to tilt forward, shoulders to slump and neck muscles to tighten up, making you feel tired and uncomfortable.
How Can You Prevent Ear Infections Caused by Poor Oral Resting Posture?
The best way to prevent ear infections caused by poor oral posture is to correct your poor oral resting posture! One way you can do that is through myofunctional therapy, which helps strengthen the mouth and tongue muscles so they function as they should.
What Is Myofunctional Therapy?
Myofunctional therapy uses gentle exercises designed to help move your jaw joints and tongue forward and upward toward the palate. By doing this, you’ll naturally relax your neck and shoulders, allowing your head to drop down onto your chest instead of being held up high. In addition, as your body drops, your chin moves closer to your collarbone, making it less likely that your tongue will rub against the back of your throat and cause irritation.
What to Do if You’re Struggling with Poor Oral Resting Posture
First thing’s first: Call us! We can help. We can determine if your oral resting posture needs correction and develop a personalized treatment plan complete with myofunctional therapy exercises.
TMJD: Another Cause of Ear Pain
Jaw dysfunction, known as TMJD, can also cause ear pain. Here’s how: Chewing, grinding and clenching our teeth together causes tiny movements in the temporomandibular joint. The small amount of activity creates friction between the two surfaces inside the joint. Over time, repeated friction wears away the cartilage lining the joint, making bone spurs called osteophytes. Osteophyte growth can press against nearby nerves, leading to discomfort and irritation of the ear.
Many people with TMJD report having sharp, stabbing ear pain as a result of their condition. Unfortunately, because pain presents in the ear, many individuals living with TMJD go years without the correct treatment because they seek out treatment for ear infections when their problem is their jaw.
Signs of TMJD
Signs of TMJD include:
- Aching jaws
- Jaw popping
- Tenderness around the ears
- Sharp pains behind the eyes
- Tooth grinding while sleeping
- Cramps in the arms and legs
- Muscle tension
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Hearing loss
- Ringing in the ears
If you’re experiencing chronic ear infections or unexplained ear pain, call us now to schedule an appointment for a consultation.