You Know when you’re viewing an action movie and the hero has a thunderous explosion close by and their ears begin to ring? Well, guess what: that most likely means our hero suffered at least a mild traumatic brain injury!
Obviously, action movies don’t highlight the brain injury part. But that ringing in our hero’s ears represents a condition called tinnitus. Usually, hearing loss is the topic of a tinnitus conversation, but traumatic brain injuries can also trigger this condition.
After all, one of the most common traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And there are quite a few reasons concussions can happen (car accidents, sports accidents, and falls, for example). How something such as a concussion causes tinnitus can be, well, complicated. But here’s the good news: even if you sustain a brain injury that causes tinnitus, you can normally treat and manage your condition.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a specific form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). One way to view it is that your brain is protected by fitting tightly in your skull. When anything occurs and shakes the head violently enough, your brain begins moving around inside of your skull. But because there’s so little additional space in there, your brain could literally smash into the inside of your skull.
This hurts your brain! The brain can hit one or more sides of your skull. And when this occurs, you experience a concussion. This example makes it quite clear that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Symptoms of concussions include the following:
- Loss of memory and confusion
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Ringing in the ears
This list isn’t exhaustive, but you get the idea. Symptoms from a concussion can continue anywhere between several weeks and several months. Brain damage from a single concussion is typically not permanent, most individuals will end up making a full recovery. But, repetitive or multiple concussions are a different story (generally speaking, it’s a good idea to avoid these).
How is tinnitus triggered by a concussion?
Is it really possible that a concussion could impact your hearing?
It’s an interesting question: what is the connection between concussions and tinnitus? After all, concussions aren’t the only brain traumas that can trigger tinnitus symptoms. That ringing in your ears can be triggered by even mild brain injuries. Here are a couple of ways that might happen:
- Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three tiny bones in your ear that help send sounds to your brain. These bones can be knocked out of place by a significant concussive, impactive event. Tinnitus can be triggered by this and it can also interrupt your hearing.
- Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some instances, harm the portions of the brain that manage hearing. When this happens, the signals that get transmitted from your ear cannot be precisely processed, and tinnitus might occur as a result.
- Nerve damage: A concussion may also cause damage to the nerve that is in charge of transferring the sounds you hear to your brain.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the onset of a condition called Meniere’s Syndrome. When pressure builds up in the inner ear this condition can happen. Substantial hearing loss and tinnitus can become an issue over time as a result of Menier’s disease.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI damages the inner ear this form of concussion occurs. Tinnitus and hearing loss, as a result of inflammation, can be the consequence of this damage.
- Damage to your hearing: For members of the military, TBIs and concussions are often caused by distance to an explosion. And explosions are incredibly loud, the noise and the shock wave can harm 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 stress that every traumatic brain injury and concussion is a bit different. Every patient will receive individualized care and instructions from us. Certainly, if you think you have suffered a traumatic brain injury or a concussion, you should call us for an assessment as soon as possible.
When you suffer from a concussion and tinnitus is the consequence, how can it be managed?
Usually, it will be a temporary situation if tinnitus is the consequence of a concussion. How long does tinnitus linger after a concussion? Well, it might last weeks or months. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is long lasting if it persists for 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:
- Masking device: This device is a lot like a hearing aid, but instead of helping you hear things more loudly, it produces a specific noise in your ear. This noise is customized to your tinnitus, overpowering the sound so you can pay attention to voices, or other sounds you actually want to hear.
- Hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes prominent because the rest of the world takes a back seat (as is the situation with non-TBI-caused hearing loss, everything else becomes quieter, so your tinnitus seems louder). A hearing aid can help turn the volume up on everything else, ensuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.
- Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to disregard the sound by engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You acknowledge that the noise is there, and then ignore it. It will require some therapy, practice, and time though.
In some cases, additional therapies may be necessary to obtain the desired result. Clearing up the tinnitus will often require treatment to the root concussion. The correct course of action will depend on the status of your concussion and your TBI. In this regard, an accurate diagnosis is key.
Learn what the right plan of treatment might be for you by getting in touch with us.
You can control tinnitus caused by a TBI
A concussion can be a significant and traumatic situation in your life. It’s never a good day when you get a concussion! And if your ears are ringing, you might ask yourself, why do I have ringing in my ears after a car accident?
Tinnitus may emerge instantly or in the days that follow. But you can successfully control tinnitus after an accident and that’s important to keep in mind. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment.