You Know when you’re watching an action movie and the hero has a loud explosion nearby and their ears begin to ring? Well, guess what: that probably means our hero sustained at least a mild traumatic brain injury!
Obviously, action movies don’t highlight 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 cause this condition.
Concussions, after all, are one of the more common traumatic brain injuries that happen. And there are a number of reasons concussions can occur (for instance, falls, sports accidents, and motor vehicle crashes). It can be somewhat complex sorting out how a concussion can cause tinnitus. Fortunately, treating and managing your conditions is usually very achievable.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a particular form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). One way to think about it is that your brain is protected by fitting snuggly in your skull. The brain will start to move 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 harm to your brain! The brain can hit one or more sides of your skull. And this is what causes a concussion. When you visualize this, it makes it simple to understand how a concussion is quite literally brain damage. Here are some symptoms of a concussion:
- Slurred speech
- Vomiting and nausea
- Confusion and loss of memory
- Blurry vision or dizziness
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Ringing in the ears
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 people will end up making a full recovery. But repeated concussions can cause permanent brain damage.
How do concussions trigger tinnitus?
Is it really feasible that a concussion could affect your hearing?
It’s an intriguing question: what is the link between tinnitus and concussions? After all, 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 may occur in a few ways:
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI damages the inner ear this type of concussion occurs. This damage can produce inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some instances, harm the portions of the brain that manage hearing. When this occurs, the signals that get transmitted from your ear can’t be correctly dealt with, and tinnitus might happen as a result.
- Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: The relaying of sound to your brain is assisted by three tiny bones in your ear. A substantial impact (the kind that can trigger a concussion, for example) can push these bones out of place. Tinnitus can be triggered by this and it can also interrupt your ability to hear.
- Nerve damage: A concussion might also cause damage to the nerve that is responsible for transmitting the sounds you hear to your brain.
- Damage to your hearing: For members of the military, TBIs and concussions are often a result of proximity to an explosion. Irreversible hearing loss can be caused when the stereocilia in your ears are damaged by the exceptionally loud shock wave of an explosion. So it’s not so much that the concussion brought about tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have the same root cause.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the development of a condition called Meniere’s Syndrome. When pressure builds up in the inner ear this condition can occur. Significant hearing loss and tinnitus can become a problem over time as a result of Menier’s disease.
It’s important to emphasize that every traumatic brain injury and concussion is a little different. Every patient will get personalized care and instructions from us. You should certainly call us for an assessment if you believe you may have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
When you suffer from a concussion and tinnitus is the result, how can it be managed?
Typically, it will be a temporary situation 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 period. Then again, if your tinnitus has lingered for more than a year, it’s likely to be permanent. In these situations, the treatment approach changes to controlling your symptoms over the long run.
Here are some ways to achieve this:
- Therapy: In some situations, therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to help patients disregard the noise caused by their tinnitus. You acknowledge that the noise is present, and then disregard it. It will require some therapy, practice, and time though.
- Hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes dominant because the rest of the world goes into the background (as is the situation with non-TBI-caused hearing loss, everything else becomes quieter, so your tinnitus seems louder). Hearing aids help your tinnitus fade into the background by turning up the volume on everything else.
- Masking device: This device goes in your ear much like a hearing aid, but it generates specific noises instead of making things louder. This noise is customized to your tinnitus, overpowering the sound so you can focus on voices, or other sounds you really want to hear.
Achieving the expected result will, in some situations, call for added therapies. Treatment of the root concussion may be required in order to get rid of the tinnitus. The right course of action will depend on the status of your concussion and your TBI. In this regard, an accurate diagnosis is key.
Consult us about what the right treatment plan might look like for you.
You can manage tinnitus caused by a TBI
A concussion can be a substantial and traumatic event in your life. When you get concussed, it’s a bad day! And if you’ve been in a car crash and your ears are ringing, you may wonder why.
It may be days later or instantly after the crash that tinnitus symptoms surface. However, it’s important to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be managed effectively. Schedule a consultation with us today.