You Know when you’re viewing an action movie and the hero has a thunderous explosion nearby and their ears begin to ring? Well, guess what: that likely means our hero sustained at least a minor traumatic brain injury!
To be certain, brain injuries aren’t the part that most action movies focus on. But that high-pitched ringing is something 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 prevalent traumatic brain injuries that occur. And there are quite a few reasons concussions can happen (for example, falls, sporting accidents, and motor vehicle accidents). It can be a bit complex sorting out how a concussion can lead to tinnitus. But here’s the good news: even if you sustain 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 like this: your brain is situated fairly tightly into your skull (your brain is big, and your skull is there to protect it). The brain will start moving around inside your skull when something shakes your head violently. But your brain could wind up smashing into the inside of your skull because of the small amount of extra space in there.
This causes damage to your brain! The brain can impact one or more sides of your skull. And this is what leads to a concussion. This illustration makes it quite clear that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Here are a few symptoms of a concussion:
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- Ringing in the ears
- Nausea and vomiting
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Confusion and loss of memory
- Slurred speech
This list is not complete, but you get the point. A few weeks to a few months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. Brain damage from a single concussion is typically not permanent, most people will end up making a complete recovery. However, repeated or multiple concussions are a different story (generally, it’s a good idea to avoid these).
How is tinnitus triggered by a concussion?
Can a concussion interfere with your hearing? Really?
The matter of concussions and tinnitus is an interesting one. Because it’s more correct to say that traumatic brain injuries (even mild ones) can cause tinnitus, it’s not just concussions. Even mild brain injuries can result in that ringing in your ears. Here are a few ways that could happen:
- Nerve damage: A concussion might also cause injury to the nerve that is responsible for transmitting the sounds you hear to your brain.
- Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three bones in your ear that help transfer sounds to your brain. These bones can be knocked out of place by a substantial concussive, impactive event. Tinnitus can be caused by this and it can also disrupt your hearing.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: This kind of concussion takes place when the inner ear is damaged as a result of your TBI. Tinnitus and hearing loss, due to inflammation, can be the consequence of this damage.
- Damage to your hearing: Experiencing an explosion at close distance is the cause of concussions and TBIs for lots of members of the armed forces. Irreversible hearing loss can be caused when the stereocilia in your ears are damaged by the tremendously noisy 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.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: The development of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome can be caused by a TBI. When pressure accumulates 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.
- Disruption of communication: In some cases, the portion of your brain that controls hearing can become harmed by a concussion. As a result, the messages sent from the ear to your brain can’t be precisely processed and tinnitus can result.
Of course it’s important to note that no two brain injuries are exactly the same. Every patient will get individualized care and instructions from us. You should definitely give us a call for an assessment if you believe you may have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
When you suffer from a concussion and tinnitus is the consequence, how can it be addressed?
Usually, it will be a temporary challenge if tinnitus is the consequence of a concussion. How long can tinnitus linger after a concussion? Weeks or possibly months, sadly, could be the time frame. Then again, if your tinnitus has lingered for more than a year, it’s likely to be permanent. Over time, in these circumstances, treatment plans to manage your condition will be the optimal strategy.
This can be accomplished by:
- Hearing aid: In a similar way to when you have 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.
- Masking device: This device goes inside your ear a lot like a hearing aid, but it produces specific noises instead of amplifying things. This noise is custom tailored to your tinnitus, overpowering the sound so you can focus on voices, or other sounds you really want to hear.
- Therapy: In some cases, therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to help patients ignore the noise produced by their tinnitus. You accept that the noise is present, and then ignore it. This technique requires therapy and practice.
Achieving the expected result will, in some cases, call for added therapies. Management of the root concussion may be necessary in order to make the tinnitus go away. 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 getting in touch with us.
TBI-triggered tinnitus can be managed
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 immediately after the accident that tinnitus symptoms emerge. However, it’s important to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be successfully managed. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment.