You know that scene in your favorite action movie where something blows up near the hero and the sound goes all high-pitched-buzzing? Well, guess what: that likely means our hero suffered at least a mild traumatic brain injury!
Naturally, action movies don’t emphasize the brain injury part. But that ringing in our hero’s ears signifies a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most often talked about in the context of hearing loss, but actually, traumatic brain injuries such as concussions can also cause this particular ringing in the ears.
Concussions, after all, are one of the more prevalent traumatic brain injuries that happen. And there are lots of reasons concussions can occur (for instance, falls, sporting accidents, and motor vehicle crashes). How something like a concussion causes tinnitus can be, well, complicated. Fortunately, treating and managing your conditions is usually very attainable.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is brain trauma of a very particular kind. One way to view it is that your brain is protected by sitting tightly in your skull. When something occurs and shakes the head violently enough, your brain starts moving around in your skull. But because there’s so little extra space in there, your brain could literally smash into the inside of your skull.
This harms your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be impacted by your brain. And when this occurs, you experience a concussion. This illustration makes it quite evident that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Symptoms of concussions include the following:
- Slurred speech
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of memory and confusion
Even though this list makes the point, it’s in no way complete. A few weeks to a few months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. Brain injury from a single concussion is typically not permanent, most individuals will end up making a total recovery. But, repetitive or multiple concussions are a different story (generally, it’s the best idea to avoid these).
How do concussions cause tinnitus?
Can a concussion interfere with your hearing? Really?
The question of concussions and tinnitus is an interesting one. Because it’s more accurate to say that traumatic brain injuries (even mild ones) can bring about tinnitus, It isn’t just concussions. That ringing in your ears can be triggered by even mild brain injuries. That may happen in a few ways:
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: This kind of concussion occurs when the inner ear is damaged due to your TBI. Tinnitus and hearing loss, due to inflammation, can be the consequence of this damage.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: The onset of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome can be a consequence of a TBI. When pressure accumulates in the inner ear this condition can occur. Eventually, Meniere’s syndrome can lead to noticeable tinnitus and hearing loss.
- Nerve damage: A concussion may also cause injury to the nerve that is in charge of transmitting the sounds you hear to your brain.
- Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: The relaying of sound to your brain is assisted by three tiny bones in your ear. These bones can be knocked out of place by a significant concussive, impactive event. Tinnitus can be caused by this and it can also disrupt your ability to hear.
- Disruption of communication: In some cases, the part of your brain that manages hearing can become harmed by a concussion. When this occurs, the messages that get sent from your ear can’t be precisely processed, and tinnitus may occur consequently.
- Damage to your hearing: Experiencing an explosion at close range is the cause of concussions and TBIs for many members of the armed forces. And explosions are really loud, the noise and the shock wave can damage the stereocilia in your ear, causing hearing loss and tinnitus. So it isn’t so much that the concussion brought about tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have a common underlying cause.
It’s significant to emphasize that every traumatic brain injury and concussion is a bit different. Every patient will receive individualized care and instructions from us. Indeed, if you think you have experienced a traumatic brain injury or a concussion, you should call us for an assessment right away.
When you get a concussion and tinnitus is the result, how can it be treated?
Most frequently, tinnitus triggered by a concussion or traumatic brain injury will be temporary. After a concussion, how long can I anticipate my tinnitus to last? Well, it could last weeks or months. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is permanent if it lasts more than a year. Over time, in these situations, treatment plans to manage your condition will be the best plan.
This can be achieved by:
- Hearing aid: In a similar way to when you have hearing loss not triggered by a TBI, tinnitus symptoms seem louder because everything else is quieter. Hearing aids help your tinnitus fade into the background by turning up the volume on everything else.
- Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to ignore the sound by undertaking cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You accept that the noise is there, and then ignore it. It will require some therapy, practice, and time though.
- Masking device: This device goes in your ear a lot like a hearing aid, but it produces particular noises instead of amplifying things. Your distinct tinnitus symptoms dictate what sound the device will generate helping you disregard the tinnitus sounds and be better able to focus on voices and other outside sounds.
In some cases, additional therapies may be required to accomplish the expected result. Clearing up the tinnitus will often require treatment to the underlying concussion. The correct course of action will depend on the nature of your concussion and your TBI. In this regard, a precise diagnosis is key.
Find out what the right plan of treatment may be for you by giving us a call.
TBI-triggered tinnitus can be controlled
Your life can be traumatically impacted by a concussion. It’s never a good day when you get a concussion! And if you’ve been in a car accident and your ears are ringing, you may wonder why.
It may be days later or instantly after the accident that tinnitus symptoms surface. However, it’s essential to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be managed effectively. Schedule a consultation with us right away.