You Know when you’re viewing an action movie and the hero has a loud explosion close by and their ears start ringing? Well, at least some level of minor brain trauma has likely happened to them.
To be certain, brain injuries aren’t the bit that most action movies linger on. But that high-pitched ringing is something called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most often talked about in the context of hearing loss, but actually, traumatic brain injuries such as concussions can also lead to this particular ringing in the ears.
After all, one of the most common traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And there are quite a few reasons concussions can happen (car accidents, sports accidents, and falls, for example). It can be somewhat complicated sorting out how a concussion can cause tinnitus. Fortunately, treating and managing your conditions is typically very achievable.
Concussions, exactly what are they?
A concussion is a specific kind 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 comes along and shakes the head violently enough, your brain starts moving around inside of your skull. But your brain could end up crashing into the inside of your skull because of the little amount of additional space in there.
This hurts your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be hit by your brain. And when this occurs, you experience a concussion. This illustration makes it quite clear that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Here are some symptoms of a concussion:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Ringing in the ears
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Blurry vision or dizziness
- Confusion and loss of memory
- Slurred speech
Even though this list makes the point, it’s in no way exhaustive. Symptoms from a concussion can persist anywhere between several weeks and several months. Brain damage from a single concussion is typically not permanent, most people will end up making a total recovery. But repeated concussions can lead to permanent brain damage.
How do concussions trigger tinnitus?
Is it actually feasible that a concussion could affect your hearing?
The question of concussions and tinnitus is an interesting one. Not surprisingly, concussions won’t be the only brain traumas that can cause tinnitus symptoms. That ringing in your ears can be set off by even mild brain injuries. That might occur in a couple of ways:
- 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. And explosions are incredibly loud, the sound and the shock wave can harm the stereocilia in your ear, causing hearing loss and tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t always caused by a concussion, but they definitely do share some common causes.
- Nerve damage: There’s also a nerve that is responsible for transmitting sounds you hear to your brain, which a concussion can damage.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI damages the inner ear this form of concussion occurs. This damage can produce inflammation and cause both hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the development of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome. When pressure accumulates in the inner ear this condition can occur. Substantial hearing loss and tinnitus can become an issue over time as a result of Menier’s disease.
- Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some instances, damage the parts of the brain that control hearing. As a result, the signals sent from the ear to your brain can’t be precisely processed and tinnitus can result.
- Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three tiny bones in your ear that help transfer sounds to your brain. A substantial impact (the kind that can trigger a concussion, for example) can push these bones out of place. This can interrupt your ability to hear and cause tinnitus.
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 given to every patient. You should certainly call us for an evaluation if you think you may have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
When you suffer from a concussion and tinnitus is the consequence, how can it be treated?
Usually, it will be a temporary challenge if tinnitus is the consequence of a concussion. After a concussion, how long can I expect my tinnitus to linger? Weeks or months, sadly, could be the time frame. However, if your tinnitus has lingered for more than a year, it’s likely to be irreversible. In these circumstances, the treatment plan changes to controlling your symptoms over the long run.
This can be achieved by:
- 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 seems louder). Hearing aids help your tinnitus fade into the background by turning the volume up on everything else.
- Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to overlook the sound by undertaking cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You ignore the sound after acknowledging it. It will take some therapy, practice, and time though.
- Masking device: This device is a lot like a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things louder, it produces a specific noise in your ear. This noise is custom tailored to your tinnitus, drowning out the sound so you can pay attention to voices, or other sounds you actually want to hear.
Obtaining the expected result will, in some cases, call for additional therapies. Getting rid of the tinnitus will often call for treatment to the root concussion. The right course of action will depend on the nature of your concussion and your TBI. In this regard, an accurate 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 your ears are ringing, you may ask yourself, why do I have ringing in my ears after a car crash?
Tinnitus may emerge instantly or in the following days. However, it’s essential to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be managed effectively. Contact us today to make an appointment.