You know that scene in your favorite action movie where something blows up near the hero and the sound goes all high-pitched-buzzing? Well, guess what: that likely means our hero suffered at least a mild traumatic brain injury!
Obviously, action movies don’t highlight the brain injury part. But that ringing in our hero’s ears represents a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most frequently talked about from the perspective of hearing loss, but actually, traumatic brain injuries such as concussions can also cause this particular ringing in the ears.
Concussions, after all, are one of the more common traumatic brain injuries that occur. And they can happen for many reasons (for instance, falls, sporting accidents, and motor vehicle accidents). It can be somewhat complicated sorting out how a concussion can trigger tinnitus. But the good news is that even if you suffer a brain injury that causes tinnitus, you can normally treat and manage your condition.
Concussions, exactly what are they?
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 tightly in your skull. When something occurs and shakes the head violently enough, your brain begins moving around inside of your skull. But your brain could end up crashing 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 leads to a concussion. When you picture this, it makes it easy to understand how a concussion is quite literally brain damage. Symptoms of concussions include the following:
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- Slurred speech
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of memory and confusion
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Ringing in the ears
Although this list makes the point, it’s by no means exhaustive. Symptoms from a concussion can persist anywhere between several weeks and a few months. When someone gets a single concussion, they will usually make a full recovery. But repeated concussions can cause irreversible brain damage.
How do concussions cause tinnitus?
Can a concussion interfere with your hearing? Really?
The question of concussions and tinnitus is an intriguing one. Not surprisingly, concussions aren’t the only brain traumas that can trigger tinnitus symptoms. That ringing in your ears can be triggered by even minor brain injuries. Here are a few ways that may take place:
- Disruption of communication: In some cases, the part of your brain that controls hearing can become damaged by a concussion. As a result, the signals sent from the ear to your brain can’t be correctly digested and tinnitus can be the outcome.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI injures the inner ear this kind of concussion occurs. This damage can cause inflammation and cause both hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Damage to your hearing: Experiencing an explosion at close distance is the cause of concussions and TBIs for many members of the military. Permanent hearing loss can be triggered when the stereocilia in your ears are damaged by the exceptionally loud shock wave of an explosion. Tinnitus isn’t always caused by a concussion, but they definitely do share some root causes.
- Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three tiny bones in your ear that help transfer sounds to your brain. These bones can be knocked out of place by a significant concussive, impactive event. This can disrupt your ability to hear and result in tinnitus.
- Nerve damage: A concussion may also cause damage to the nerve that is responsible for transmitting the sounds you hear to your brain.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: The onset of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome can be caused by a TBI. When pressure builds up in the inner ear this condition can happen. Significant hearing loss and tinnitus can become a problem over time as a result of Menier’s disease.
Of course it’s important to keep in mind that no two brain injuries are precisely the same. Every patient will get personalized care and instructions from us. You should certainly give us a call for an evaluation if you think you might have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
How do you treat tinnitus caused by a concussion?
Most frequently, tinnitus caused by a concussion or traumatic brain injury will be temporary. After a concussion, how long can I expect my tinnitus to last? Well, it may last weeks or possibly months. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is irreversible if it persists for more than a year. In these circumstances, the treatment approach transitions to controlling your symptoms over the long run.
Here are some ways to achieve this:
- Hearing aid: In a similar way to when you’re dealing with hearing loss not caused 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: In some cases, therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to help patients ignore the noise produced by their tinnitus. You ignore the sound after acknowledging it. It will take some therapy, practice, and time though.
- Masking device: This device goes inside your ear much like a hearing aid, but it creates particular noises instead of amplifying things. This noise is custom tailored to your tinnitus, overpowering the sound so you can pay attention to voices, or other sounds you actually want to hear.
Achieving the expected result will, in some cases, call for additional therapies. Management of the underlying concussion may be necessary in order to get rid of the tinnitus. The correct course of action will depend on the status of your concussion and your TBI. This means an accurate diagnosis is incredibly important in this regard.
Talk to 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 a concussion! And if your ears are ringing, you may ask yourself, why are my ears ringing after a car crash?
It may be days later or instantly after the accident that tinnitus symptoms emerge. However, it’s important to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be managed effectively. Schedule a consultation with us today.