You know that scene in your favorite action movie where something explodes next to the hero and the sound gets all high-pitched-buzzing? Well, guess what: that probably means our hero sustained at least a minor traumatic brain injury!
Obviously, action movies don’t highlight the brain injury part. But that ringing in our hero’s ears signifies a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most frequently discussed in the context of hearing loss, but it turns out that traumatic brain injuries such as concussions can also cause this particular ringing in the ears.
After all, one of the most common traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And there are a number of reasons concussions can occur (car accidents, sports accidents, and falls, for instance). How something like a concussion triggers tinnitus can be, well, complicated. But the good news is that even if you suffer a brain injury that triggers tinnitus, you can usually treat and manage your condition.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a particular kind of traumatic brain injury (TBI). One way to view it is that your brain is protected by fitting snuggly in your skull. The brain will start to move around in your skull when something shakes your head violently. But your brain could end up crashing into the inside of your skull because of the little amount of extra space in there.
This causes harm to your brain! The brain can hit one or more sides of your skull. 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:
- Loss of memory and confusion
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Blurry vision or dizziness
- Slurred speech
- Nausea and vomiting
- Ringing in the ears
This list is not exhaustive, but you get the point. Several weeks to several months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. When someone gets one concussion, they will typically make a full recovery. However, repeated or multiple concussions are a different story (generally, it’s the best idea to avoid these).
How do concussions trigger tinnitus?
Is it really feasible that a concussion could affect your hearing?
The matter of concussions and tinnitus is an intriguing one. Not surprisingly, concussions are not the only brain traumas that can cause tinnitus symptoms. That ringing in your ears can be set off by even minor brain injuries. That might occur in a few ways:
- Nerve damage: There’s also a nerve that is responsible for sending sounds you hear to your brain, which a concussion can damage.
- Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three tiny bones in your ear that help transfer sounds to your brain. A major impact (the kind that can trigger a concussion, for instance) can jostle these bones out of place. This can interrupt your ability to hear and cause tinnitus.
- Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some instances, harm the portions of the brain that control hearing. As a result, the signals sent from the ear to your brain can’t be properly processed and tinnitus can be the outcome.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the onset of a condition called Meniere’s Syndrome. When pressure accumulates in the inner ear this condition can occur. Significant hearing loss and tinnitus can become an issue over time as a result of Menier’s disease.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI injures the inner ear this kind of concussion occurs. Tinnitus and hearing loss, as a result of inflammation, can be the consequence of this damage.
- Damage to your hearing: Enduring an explosion at close range is the cause of concussions and TBIs for lots of members of the military. And explosions are very loud, the noise and the shock wave can damage the stereocilia in your ear, triggering hearing loss and tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t inevitably caused by a concussion, but they definitely do share some root causes.
Of course it’s important to keep in mind that no two brain injuries are exactly alike. Every patient will receive individualized care and instructions from us. You should definitely contact us for an evaluation if you think you may have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
How do you manage tinnitus from a concussion?
Typically, 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 last? Well, it may last weeks or possibly months. However, if your tinnitus has lasted for more than a year, it’s likely to be permanent. In these situations, the treatment plan transitions to managing your symptoms over the long term.
This can be accomplished by:
- Therapy: In some situations, therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be utilized to help patients ignore the noise caused by their tinnitus. You acknowledge that the noise is there, and then ignore it. It will take some therapy, practice, and time though.
- Hearing aid: In a similar way to when you’re dealing with hearing loss not triggered by a TBI, tinnitus symptoms seem louder because everything else is quieter. A hearing aid can help raise the volume of everything else, assuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.
- Masking device: This device goes inside your ear much like a hearing aid, but it produces particular noises instead of amplifying things. Your particular tinnitus symptoms determine what sound the device will generate helping you ignore the tinnitus sounds and be better able to focus on voices and other outside sounds.
Obtaining the desired result will, in some situations, call for additional therapies. Treatment of the underlying concussion may be required in order to make the tinnitus go away. Depending on the nature of your concussion, there could be a number of possible courses of action. This means an accurate diagnosis is extremely important in this regard.
Discover what the best plan of treatment might be for you by getting in touch with us.
TBI-triggered tinnitus can be controlled
A concussion can be a significant and traumatic situation in your life. When you get concussed, it’s a bad day! And if your ears are ringing, you might ask yourself, why are my ears ringing after a car accident?
Tinnitus could emerge immediately or in the days that follow. But you can successfully control tinnitus after an accident and that’s important to keep in mind. Schedule a consultation with us today.