You know that scene in your favorite action movie where something explodes near the hero and the sound goes all high-pitched-buzzing? Well, guess what: that probably means our hero sustained at least a mild traumatic brain injury!
Obviously, action movies don’t emphasize the brain injury part. But that high-pitched ringing is something known as tinnitus. Usually, hearing loss is the topic of a tinnitus conversation, but traumatic brain injuries can also trigger this condition.
Concussions, after all, are one of the more common traumatic brain injuries that happen. And they can occur for a wide variety of reasons (for instance, falls, sporting accidents, and motor vehicle crashes). How something such as a concussion causes tinnitus can be, well, complicated. But here’s the good news: even if you sustain a brain injury that triggers tinnitus, you can usually treat and manage your condition.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is brain trauma of a very specific kind. Think about it this way: your brain is situated pretty tightly into your skull (your brain is big, and your skull is there to protect it). The brain will start to move around inside your skull when something shakes your head violently. But because there’s so little additional space in there, your brain could literally smash into the inside of your skull.
This harms 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 a few symptoms of a concussion:
- Confusion and loss of memory
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Ringing in the ears
- Vomiting and nausea
- Slurred speech
- Dizziness and blurred vision
Even though this list makes the point, it’s in no way exhaustive. A few weeks to several months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. Brain damage from one concussion is typically not permanent, most individuals will end up making a total recovery. But, repetitive or multiple concussions are a different story (generally speaking, it’s a good idea to avoid these).
How do concussions cause tinnitus?
Can a concussion interfere with your hearing? Really?
The question of concussions and tinnitus is an intriguing one. Because it’s more accurate to say that traumatic brain injuries (even mild ones) can bring about tinnitus, It isn’t only concussions. That ringing in your ears can be set off by even minor brain injuries. That may occur in a couple of ways:
- 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 occur. Sooner or later, Meniere’s syndrome can result in noticeable tinnitus and hearing loss.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: This type of concussion happens when the inner ear is damaged as a result of your TBI. Tinnitus and hearing loss, as a result of inflammation, can be the consequence of this damage.
- Nerve damage: A concussion might also cause injury to the nerve that is responsible for transferring the sounds you hear to your brain.
- Damage to your hearing: Experiencing an explosion at close range is the cause of concussions and TBIs for lots of members of the armed forces. Irreversible hearing loss can be triggered when the stereocilia in your ears are injured by the tremendously 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 a common root cause.
- Disruption of communication: In some instances, the portion of your brain that controls hearing can become harmed by a concussion. When this occurs, the signals that get transmitted from your ear cannot be correctly dealt with, and tinnitus may occur consequently.
- Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: The transmission of sound to your brain is assisted by three tiny bones in your ear. A major impact (the kind that can trigger a concussion, for instance) can jostle these bones out of position. Tinnitus can be caused by this and it can also interrupt your hearing.
It’s significant to stress that every traumatic brain injury and concussion is a bit different. Every patient will receive individualized care and instructions from us. You should certainly call us for an evaluation if you think you might have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
When you suffer from a concussion and tinnitus is the consequence, how can it be managed?
Usually, it will be a temporary challenge if tinnitus is the result of a concussion. How long can tinnitus last after a concussion? Well, it might last weeks or possibly months. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is long lasting if it persists for more than a year. In these situations, the treatment strategy transitions to controlling your symptoms over the long run.
This can be accomplished by:
- Masking device: This device is similar to a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things more loudly, it creates a distinct noise in your ear. Your specific tinnitus symptoms determine what sound the device will produce helping you ignore the tinnitus sounds and be better able to focus on voices and other external sounds.
- 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 situations, therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to help patients ignore the noise caused by their tinnitus. You accept that the noise is present, and then ignore it. This technique requires therapy and practice.
Achieving the expected result will, in some cases, require added therapies. Getting rid of the tinnitus will often require treatment to the root concussion. Depending on the nature of your concussion, there may be several possible courses of action. This means an accurate diagnosis is extremely important in this regard.
Learn what the right plan of treatment may be for you by getting in touch with us.
You can control tinnitus caused by a TBI
A concussion can be a significant and traumatic situation in your life. When you get a concussion, it’s a bad day! And if you’ve been in a car accident and your ears are ringing, you may wonder why.
Tinnitus may emerge instantly or in the following days. However, it’s essential to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be successfully managed. Call us today to make an appointment.