You know that scene in your favorite action movie where something explodes next to the hero and the sound gets all high-pitched-buzzing? Well, guess what: that most likely means our hero suffered at least a minor traumatic brain injury!
Naturally, action movies don’t emphasize the brain injury part. 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 common traumatic brain injuries that occur. And there are lots of reasons concussions can happen (for instance, falls, sporting accidents, and motor vehicle accidents). It can be a bit complicated sorting out how a concussion can trigger tinnitus. But the good news is that even if you sustain a brain injury that causes tinnitus, you can usually treat and manage your condition.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a specific form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). One way to think about 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 in your skull. 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! Multiple sides of your skull can be impacted 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:
- Loss of memory and confusion
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Ringing in the ears
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Nausea and vomiting
This list isn’t exhaustive, but you get the point. Symptoms from a concussion can persist anywhere between a few weeks and several months. Brain injury from one concussion is generally not permanent, most individuals will end up making a total recovery. But recurring concussions can result in permanent brain damage.
How is tinnitus caused by a concussion?
Is it really possible that a concussion may affect your hearing?
It’s an interesting question: what is the connection between tinnitus and concussions? Because it’s more correct to say that traumatic brain injuries (even mild ones) can result in tinnitus, it’s not only concussions. Even minor brain injuries can lead to that ringing in your ears. Here are a couple of ways that could happen:
- Nerve damage: A concussion might also cause damage to the nerve that is responsible for transmitting the sounds you hear to your brain.
- Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: The relaying of sound to your brain is aided by three tiny bones in your ear. A major impact (the type that can cause a concussion, for instance) can push these bones out of position. This can interrupt your ability to hear and result in tinnitus.
- Damage to your hearing: Enduring an explosion at close distance is the cause of concussions and TBIs for many members of the military. Irreversible hearing loss can be caused when the stereocilia in your ears are damaged by the incredibly noisy shock wave of an explosion. Tinnitus isn’t always caused by a concussion, but they definitely do share some root causes.
- Disruption of communication: In some instances, the part of your brain that manages hearing can become harmed by a concussion. As a result, the messages sent from the ear to your brain can’t be correctly digested and tinnitus can be the outcome.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: This form 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.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the development of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome. This is a consequence of an accumulation of pressure inside of the inner ear. Significant hearing loss and tinnitus can become a problem over time as a result of Menier’s disease.
Of course it’s important to note that no two brain injuries are exactly the same. Personalized care and instructions, from us, will be provided to every patient. Certainly, if you think you have experienced a traumatic brain injury or a concussion, you should call us for an assessment right away.
How do you manage tinnitus caused by a concussion?
Usually, it will be a temporary challenge if tinnitus is the result of a concussion. How long can tinnitus last after a concussion? Weeks or possibly months, sadly, could be the time period. Then again, if your tinnitus has lasted for more than a year, it’s likely to be permanent. In these situations, the treatment approach transitions to managing your symptoms over the long run.
This can be achieved by:
- Therapy: In some cases, therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be utilized to help patients ignore the noise caused by their tinnitus. You ignore the sound after accepting it. This technique requires therapy and practice.
- Masking device: This device goes inside your ear a lot like a hearing aid, but it creates specific noises instead of making things louder. This noise is customized to your tinnitus, drowning out the sound so you can pay attention to voices, or other sounds you actually want to hear.
- Hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes pronounced because the rest of the world takes a back seat (as is the situation with non-TBI-caused hearing loss, everything else gets quieter, so your tinnitus seems louder). A hearing aid can help raise the volume of everything else, ensuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.
In some situations, additional therapies may be required to achieve the expected result. Clearing up the tinnitus will often require treatment to the underlying concussion. The best course of action will depend on the status of your concussion and your TBI. This means an accurate diagnosis is extremely important in this regard.
Find out what the right plan of treatment may be for you by giving us a call.
TBI-caused tinnitus can be managed
Your life can be traumatically affected by a concussion. When you get a concussion, it’s a bad day! And if you’ve been in a car accident and your ears are ringing, you might wonder why.
It may be days later or instantly after the crash 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.