You know that scene in your favorite action movie where something explodes near the hero and the sound gets all high-pitched-buzzing? Well, at least some degree 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 known as tinnitus. Normally, hearing loss is the subject of a tinnitus conversation, but traumatic brain injuries can also trigger this condition.
After all, one of the most common traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And they can happen for a wide variety of reasons (car accidents, sporting accidents, and falls, for instance). It can be a bit complex sorting out how a concussion can lead to tinnitus. Fortunately, treating and managing your conditions is usually very attainable.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is brain trauma of a very specific kind. Think about it like this: your brain is situated pretty tightly inside your skull (your brain is large, and your skull is there to protect it). When something occurs and shakes the head violently enough, your brain starts moving around inside of your skull. But your brain could wind up crashing 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 hit by your brain. And this is what brings about a concussion. This illustration makes it quite clear that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Here are some symptoms of a concussion:
- Slurred speech
- Confusion and loss of memory
- Vomiting and nausea
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Ringing in the ears
- Blurry vision or dizziness
This list isn’t exhaustive, but you get the idea. Several weeks to a few months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. When someone gets one concussion, they will usually make a full recovery. But repeated concussions can cause permanent brain damage.
How do concussions cause tinnitus?
Can a concussion interfere with your hearing? Really?
It’s an intriguing question: what is the link between concussions and tinnitus? Because it’s more accurate to say that traumatic brain injuries (even minor ones) can result in tinnitus, it’s not just concussions. Even mild brain injuries can lead to that ringing in your ears. Here are a few ways that could take place:
- Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some situations, harm the portions of the brain that control hearing. When this happens, the signals that get sent from your ear can’t be properly dealt with, and tinnitus may happen as a result.
- Damage to your hearing: Enduring an explosion at close distance is the cause of concussions and TBIs for many members of the armed forces. And explosions are incredibly loud, the sound and the shock wave can damage the stereocilia in your ear, causing hearing loss and tinnitus. So it’s not so much that the concussion brought about tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have the same underlying cause.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: The onset of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome can be a consequence of a TBI. This is caused by the buildup of pressure within the inner ear. Substantial hearing loss and tinnitus can become an issue over time as a result of Menier’s disease.
- Nerve damage: A concussion might also cause injury to the nerve that is in charge of transferring the sounds you hear to your brain.
- Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: The transmission of sound to your brain is assisted by three bones in your ear. A major impact (the kind that can trigger a concussion, for example) can push these bones out of position. Tinnitus can be caused by this and it can also disrupt your hearing.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI damages the inner ear this kind of concussion happens. This damage can create inflammation and cause both hearing loss and tinnitus.
Of course it’s important to keep in mind that no two brain injuries are exactly alike. Personalized care and instructions, from us, will be given to every patient. You should certainly call us for an assessment if you think you might have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
When you get a concussion and tinnitus is the result, how can it be addressed?
Most often, tinnitus caused by a concussion or traumatic brain damage will be short-term. After a concussion, how long can I anticipate my tinnitus to last? Well, it could last weeks or months. Then again, if your tinnitus has lingered for more than a year, it’s likely to be long lasting. Over time, in these situations, treatment plans to manage your condition will be the optimal strategy.
This can be achieved by:
- Hearing aid: In a similar way to when you have hearing loss not triggered by a TBI, tinnitus symptoms seem louder because everything else is quieter. Hearing aids help your tinnitus fade into the background by turning up the volume on everything else.
- Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to overlook the sound by engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You disregard the sound after accepting it. This technique takes therapy and practice.
- Masking device: This device is similar to a hearing aid, but instead of helping you hear things louder, it creates a particular noise in your ear. This noise is customized to your tinnitus, overpowering the sound so you can pay attention to voices, or other sounds you actually want to hear.
In some cases, additional therapies might be necessary to achieve the expected result. Clearing up the tinnitus will frequently call for treatment to the root concussion. Depending on the nature of your concussion, there may be a number of possible courses of action. In this regard, an accurate diagnosis is key.
Consult us about what the right treatment plan might look like for you.
You can control tinnitus caused by a TBI
Your life can be traumatically affected by a concussion. It’s never a good day when you get concussed! And if your ears are ringing, you might ask yourself, why do I have ringing in my ears after a car crash?
Tinnitus could surface immediately or in the days that follow. But you can successfully manage tinnitus after an accident and that’s important to keep in mind. Schedule a consultation with us today.