You know that scene in your favorite action movie where something blows up near the hero and the sound gets all high-pitched-buzzing? Well, at least some amount of mild brain trauma has likely happened to them.
Obviously, action movies don’t emphasize the brain injury part. But that high-pitched ringing is something called tinnitus. Normally, hearing loss is the topic of a tinnitus conversation, but traumatic brain injuries can also trigger this condition.
Concussions, after all, are one of the more common traumatic brain injuries that happen. And there are a number of reasons concussions can happen (for example, falls, sports accidents, and motor vehicle accidents). How something such as a concussion causes tinnitus can be, well, complicated. But here’s the good news: even if you suffer a brain injury that triggers tinnitus, you can usually treat and manage your condition.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a specific type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Think about it this way: your brain is situated fairly tightly inside your skull (your brain is big, and your skull is there to protect it). When anything occurs and shakes the head violently enough, your brain starts moving around inside of your skull. But your brain could end up smashing into the inside of your skull because of the little amount of extra space in there.
This hurts your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be impacted by your brain. And when this happens, you get a concussion. This example makes it quite clear that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Here are some symptoms of a concussion:
- Confusion and loss of memory
- Vomiting and nausea
- Ringing in the ears
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Slurred speech
Although this list makes the point, it’s certainly not complete. Symptoms from a concussion can persist anywhere between a few weeks and a few months. Brain injury from a single concussion is typically not permanent, most people will end up making a total recovery. But recurring concussions can cause irreversible brain damage.
How is tinnitus triggered by a concussion?
Is it really feasible that a concussion could affect your hearing?
The matter of concussions and tinnitus is an interesting one. After all, concussions won’t be the only brain traumas that can cause tinnitus symptoms. That ringing in your ears can be triggered by even minor brain injuries. That may happen in a couple of ways:
- Damage to your hearing: Enduring an explosion at close distance is the cause of concussions and TBIs for many members of the military. And explosions are very loud, the sound 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 caused tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have the same root cause.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI damages the inner ear this kind of concussion happens. This damage can create inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Nerve damage: There’s also a nerve that is responsible for transmitting sounds you hear to your brain, which a concussion can damage.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the onset of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome. When pressure accumulates in the inner ear this condition can occur. Significant hearing loss and tinnitus can become a problem over time as a result of Menier’s disease.
- Disruption of communication: In some cases, the portion of your brain that manages hearing can become damaged by a concussion. When this occurs, the messages that get sent from your ear cannot be correctly dealt with, and tinnitus might occur consequently.
- Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three bones in your ear that help transfer sounds to your brain. A major impact (the type that can trigger a concussion, for instance) can push these bones out of position. Tinnitus can be caused by this and it can also disrupt your ability to hear.
It’s important to stress that every traumatic brain injury and concussion is a little different. Individualized care and instructions, from us, will be provided to every patient. You should certainly call us for an evaluation if you think you might have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
When you get a concussion and tinnitus is the consequence, how can it be treated?
Most frequently, tinnitus caused by a concussion or traumatic brain damage will be temporary. How long can tinnitus last after a concussion? Well, it might last weeks or possibly months. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is irreversible if it persists for more than a year. In these cases, the treatment strategy transitions to managing your symptoms over the long term.
Here are some ways to achieve this:
- Masking device: This device is similar to a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things more loudly, it creates a particular noise in your ear. Your specific tinnitus symptoms dictate what sound the device will generate helping you ignore the tinnitus sounds and be better able to focus on voices and other outside sounds.
- 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 sounds louder). A hearing aid can help turn the volume up on everything else, assuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.
- Therapy: In some cases, therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to help patients disregard the noise caused by their tinnitus. You acknowledge that the noise is present, and then ignore it. This technique takes therapy and practice.
In some situations, additional therapies might be necessary to accomplish the expected result. Getting rid of the tinnitus will often require treatment to the root concussion. Depending on the status of your concussion, there could be several possible courses of action. In this regard, a precise diagnosis is key.
Find out what the best plan of treatment may be for you by getting in touch with us.
TBI-caused tinnitus can be managed
A concussion can be a significant and traumatic event in your life. It’s never a good day when you get concussed! And if your ears are ringing, you might ask yourself, why are my ears ringing after a car accident?
It could be days later or instantly after the accident that tinnitus symptoms surface. But you can successfully control tinnitus after an accident and that’s important to keep in mind. Schedule a consultation with us right away.