You know that scene in your favorite action movie where something blows up next to the hero and the sound goes all high-pitched-buzzing? Well, guess what: that likely means our hero suffered at least a minor traumatic brain injury!
Naturally, action movies don’t highlight the brain injury part. But that high-pitched ringing is something known as tinnitus. Tinnitus is most frequently discussed from the perspective of hearing loss, but actually, traumatic brain injuries such as concussions can also lead to this particular ringing in the ears.
After all, one of the most prevalent traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And there are a number of reasons concussions can happen (car accidents, sporting accidents, and falls, for example). It can be a bit complex sorting out how a concussion can cause tinnitus. Luckily, treating and managing your conditions is typically very achievable.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a specific kind of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Think about it this way: your brain is situated pretty tightly into your skull (your brain is large, and your skull is there to protect it). The brain will begin moving around in your skull when something shakes your head violently. But because there’s so little extra space in there, your brain could literally crash into the inside of your skull.
This harms your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be hit by your brain. And when this happens, you experience a concussion. This example makes it quite evident that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Here are some symptoms of a concussion:
- Ringing in the ears
- Vomiting and nausea
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- Confusion and loss of memory
- Slurred speech
- A slow or delayed response to questions
This list isn’t exhaustive, but you get the idea. Several weeks to a few months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. 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?
Can a concussion mess with your hearing? Really?
It’s an intriguing question: what is the connection between tinnitus and concussions? Because it’s more accurate to say that traumatic brain injuries (even mild ones) can bring about tinnitus, It isn’t just concussions. Even mild brain injuries can lead to that ringing in your ears. Here are a couple of ways that may happen:
- Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three tiny bones in your ear that help transfer sounds to your brain. These bones can be pushed out of place by a substantial concussive, impactive event. Tinnitus can be triggered by this and it can also disrupt your ability to hear.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the development of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome. When pressure accumulates in the inner ear this condition can happen. Substantial hearing loss and tinnitus can become a problem over time as a result of Menier’s disease.
- Disruption of communication: In some instances, the part 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 precisely processed and tinnitus can be the outcome.
- 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 result of this damage.
- Damage to your hearing: Experiencing an explosion at close range is the cause of concussions and TBIs for many members of the armed forces. Irreversible hearing loss can be triggered when the stereocilia in your ears are damaged by the exceptionally loud shock wave of an explosion. So it isn’t so much that the concussion brought about tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have the same underlying cause.
- Nerve damage: There’s also a nerve that is responsible for sending sounds you hear to your brain, which a concussion can harm.
It’s important to stress that every traumatic brain injury and concussion is a bit different. Personalized care and instructions, from us, will be given to every patient. You should definitely give us a call for an evaluation if you think you may have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
When you suffer from a concussion and tinnitus is the result, how can it be addressed?
Typically, it will be a temporary challenge if tinnitus is the consequence of a concussion. How long can tinnitus linger after a concussion? Well, it might last weeks or possibly months. Then again, if your tinnitus has lingered for more than a year, it’s likely to be irreversible. In these cases, the treatment plan transitions to managing your symptoms over the long term.
Here are some ways to achieve this:
- Masking device: This device goes in your ear much like a hearing aid, but it produces particular noises instead of making things louder. Your distinct tinnitus symptoms dictate what sound the device will produce helping you disregard the tinnitus sounds and be better able to focus on voices and other external sounds.
- Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to disregard the sound by engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You disregard the sound after acknowledging it. This technique takes therapy and practice.
- Hearing aid: In a similar way to when you’re dealing with hearing loss not caused by a TBI, tinnitus symptoms seem louder because everything else is quieter. A hearing aid can help turn the volume up on everything else, assuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.
In some cases, additional therapies might be necessary to achieve the desired result. Clearing up the tinnitus will frequently require treatment to the root concussion. The right course of action will depend on the nature of your concussion and your TBI. In this regard, an accurate diagnosis is key.
Discover what the right plan of treatment might be for you by giving us a call.
TBI-triggered 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 you have ringing in your ears, you might ask yourself, why do I have ringing in my ears after a car accident?
It could be days later or immediately after the crash that tinnitus symptoms surface. However, it’s important to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be successfully managed. Schedule a consultation with us today.