You Know when you’re viewing an action movie and the hero has a loud explosion close by and their ears begin to ring? Well, guess what: that probably means our hero sustained at least a mild traumatic brain injury!
To be sure, brain injuries aren’t the bit that most action movies linger on. But that ringing in our hero’s ears signifies a condition called tinnitus. Usually, hearing loss is the topic of a tinnitus conversation, but traumatic brain injuries can also cause this condition.
Concussions, after all, are one of the more common traumatic brain injuries that happen. And they can happen for a wide variety of reasons (car crashes, sports accidents, and falls, for example). How something such as a concussion triggers tinnitus can be, well, complicated. But the good news is that even if you sustain a brain injury that causes tinnitus, you can usually treat and manage your condition.
Concussions, exactly what are they?
A concussion is a particular kind of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Think about it this way: your brain is situated fairly tightly into your skull (your brain is large, and your skull is there to protect it). The brain will start to move around in your skull when something shakes your head violently. But because there’s so little extra space in there, your brain could literally smash into the inside of your skull.
This hurts your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be hit by your brain. And this is what results in a concussion. This illustration makes it quite clear that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Here are some symptoms of a concussion:
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Blurry vision or dizziness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Loss of memory and confusion
- Ringing in the ears
This list isn’t complete, but you get the idea. Several weeks to a few months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. Brain injury from one concussion is typically not permanent, most individuals will end up making a total recovery. But, repeated or multiple concussions are a bigger problem (generally, it’s a good idea to avoid these).
How do concussions cause tinnitus?
Is it actually possible that a concussion could impact your hearing?
It’s an interesting question: what is the link between tinnitus and concussions? Not surprisingly, concussions aren’t the only brain traumas that can trigger tinnitus symptoms. Even minor brain injuries can result in that ringing in your ears. That might happen in a few ways:
- Disruption of communication: In some cases, the portion of your brain that manages hearing can become harmed by a concussion. Consequently, the messages sent from the ear to your brain can’t be properly processed and tinnitus can be the outcome.
- Nerve damage: A concussion may also cause damage to the nerve that is in charge of transferring the sounds you hear to your brain.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI injures the inner ear this type of concussion happens. This damage can cause inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Damage to your hearing: For members of the armed forces, TBIs and concussions are frequently a result of proximity to an explosion. And explosions are really loud, the sound and the shock wave can damage the stereocilia in your ear, triggering 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.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: The onset of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome can be caused by a TBI. This is caused by an accumulation of pressure inside of the inner ear. Significant hearing loss and tinnitus can become an issue over time as a result of Menier’s disease.
- Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three tiny bones in your ear that help transmit sounds to your brain. A major impact (the type that can trigger a concussion, for instance) can jostle these bones out of place. Tinnitus can be caused by this and it can also disrupt your hearing.
Of course it’s important to note that no two brain injuries are exactly the same. Individualized care and instructions, from us, will be provided to every patient. Certainly, if you think you have suffered a traumatic brain injury or a concussion, you should call us for an assessment right away.
When you suffer from a concussion and tinnitus is the result, how can it be addressed?
Usually, it will be a temporary challenge if tinnitus is the result of a concussion. After a concussion, how long can I expect my tinnitus to linger? Well, it might last weeks or possibly months. However, if your tinnitus has lasted for more than a year, it’s likely to be long lasting. In these circumstances, the treatment approach changes to managing your symptoms over the long term.
This can be accomplished by:
- Therapy: In some cases, therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to help patients ignore the noise produced by their tinnitus. You ignore the sound after acknowledging it. This technique requires therapy and practice.
- Hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes pronounced because the rest of the world takes a back seat (as is the case with non-TBI-caused hearing loss, everything else becomes quieter, so your tinnitus sounds louder). Hearing aids help your tinnitus go into the background by turning the volume up on everything else.
- Masking device: This device is a lot like a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things louder, it creates a specific noise in your ear. Your specific tinnitus symptoms dictate what sound the device will produce helping you ignore the tinnitus sounds and be better able to pay attention to voices and other external sounds.
In some cases, further therapies may be necessary to obtain the expected result. Clearing up the tinnitus will frequently call for treatment to the root concussion. Depending on the nature of your concussion, there could be several possible courses of action. In this regard, an accurate diagnosis is key.
Discover what the best plan of treatment may be for you by giving us a call.
TBI-triggered tinnitus can be controlled
A concussion can be a substantial and traumatic event in your life. When you get a concussion, it’s a bad day! And if you’ve been in a car crash and your ears are ringing, you may wonder why.
It could be days later or instantly after the crash that tinnitus symptoms surface. However, it’s essential to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be successfully managed. Schedule a consultation with us right away.