You Know when you’re viewing an action movie and the hero has a loud explosion nearby and their ears start ringing? Well, at least some amount of mild brain trauma has likely happened to them.
To be sure, brain injuries aren’t the part that most action movies linger on. But that ringing in our hero’s ears represents a condition called tinnitus. Normally, 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 most common traumatic brain injuries that occur. And there are a number of reasons concussions can occur (car accidents, sports accidents, and falls, for instance). It can be a bit complicated sorting out how a concussion can cause tinnitus. But here’s the good news: even if you suffer a brain injury that causes 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 this way: your brain is situated fairly tightly into your skull (your brain is big, and your skull is there to protect it). The brain will begin to move around inside 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! The brain can impact one or more sides of your skull. And this is what causes a concussion. This example makes it quite evident that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Symptoms of concussions include the following:
- Slurred speech
- Nausea and vomiting
- Ringing in the ears
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Blurry vision or dizziness
- Loss of memory and confusion
This list is not exhaustive, but you get the point. Symptoms from a concussion can persist anywhere between several weeks and several months. Brain damage from one concussion is generally not permanent, most individuals will end up making a full recovery. But, 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. Not surprisingly, concussions won’t be the only brain traumas that can trigger tinnitus symptoms. Even mild brain injuries can lead to that ringing in your ears. That might occur in a few ways:
- Damage to your hearing: For members of the armed forces, TBIs and concussions are often a result of distance to an explosion. And explosions are very loud, the sound and the shock wave can damage the stereocilia in your ear, causing hearing loss and tinnitus. So it isn’t so much that the concussion caused tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have a common root cause.
- Nerve damage: There’s also a nerve that is in charge of transmitting sounds you hear to your brain, which a concussion can harm.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI damages the inner ear this form of concussion occurs. This damage can create inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three tiny bones in your ear that help send sounds to your brain. A substantial impact (the type that can cause a concussion, for instance) can jostle these bones out of place. Tinnitus can be triggered by this and it can also disrupt your hearing.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the development of a condition called Meniere’s Syndrome. When pressure accumulates in the inner ear this condition can happen. Sooner or later, Meniere’s syndrome can result in noticeable tinnitus and hearing loss.
- Disruption of communication: In some cases, the part of your brain that manages hearing can become damaged by a concussion. Consequently, the signals sent from the ear to your brain can’t be precisely processed and tinnitus can result.
Of course it’s significant to keep in mind that no two brain injuries are exactly the same. Individualized 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 as soon as possible.
When you suffer from a concussion and tinnitus is the result, how can it be treated?
Most often, tinnitus triggered by a concussion or traumatic brain damage will be temporary. After a concussion, how long can I expect my tinnitus to linger? Weeks or months, sadly, could be the time period. Then again, if your tinnitus has lasted for more than a year, it’s likely to be irreversible. In these cases, the treatment strategy transitions to controlling your symptoms over the long term.
Here are some ways to accomplish this:
- Masking device: This device goes inside your ear a lot like a hearing aid, but it creates particular noises instead of making things louder. This noise is custom tailored to your tinnitus, drowning out 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 utilized to help patients ignore the noise produced by their tinnitus. You ignore the sound after accepting it. This technique takes therapy and practice.
- Hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes pronounced because the rest of the world takes a back seat (as is the case with non-TBI-caused hearing loss, everything else becomes quieter, so your tinnitus sounds 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 necessary to accomplish the expected result. Treatment of the underlying concussion might be necessary in order to make the tinnitus go away. The right course of action will depend on the status of your concussion and your TBI. In this regard, a precise diagnosis is key.
Consult us about what the right treatment plan may look like for you.
You can control tinnitus caused by a TBI
Your life can be traumatically impacted by a concussion. When you get concussed, it’s a bad day! And if you’ve been in a car crash and your ears are ringing, you might wonder why.
Tinnitus could emerge immediately or in the days that follow. However, it’s important to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be managed effectively. Schedule a consultation with us today.