You Know when you’re watching an action movie and the hero has a thunderous explosion close by and their ears begin to ring? Well, guess what: that most likely means our hero sustained at least a mild traumatic brain injury!
To be sure, brain injuries aren’t the part that most action movies focus on. But that ringing in our hero’s ears represents a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most often discussed from the perspective of hearing loss, but actually, traumatic brain injuries such as concussions can also trigger this particular ringing in the ears.
After all, one of the most common traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And they can occur for many reasons (for instance, falls, sporting accidents, and motor vehicle crashes). How something such as a concussion triggers tinnitus can be, well, complex. Fortunately, treating and managing your conditions is typically very attainable.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a specific form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Think about it like this: your brain is situated fairly tightly into your skull (your brain is large, and your skull is there to protect it). The brain will start moving around in your skull when something shakes your head violently. But your brain could end up smashing into the inside of your skull because of the little amount of extra space in there.
This harms your brain! The brain can hit one or more sides of your skull. And when this happens, you experience a concussion. This example makes it quite clear that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Symptoms of concussions include the following:
- Loss of memory and confusion
- Slurred speech
- Nausea and vomiting
- Ringing in the ears
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- A slow or delayed response to questions
Even though this list makes the point, it’s certainly not exhaustive. Symptoms from a concussion can persist anywhere between several weeks and several months. Brain damage from a single concussion is generally not permanent, most individuals will end up making a full recovery. But recurring concussions can lead to irreversible brain damage.
How do concussions trigger tinnitus?
Can a concussion mess 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 minor ones) can cause tinnitus, It isn’t only concussions. That ringing in your ears can be triggered by even mild brain injuries. That may happen in a couple of ways:
- Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some situations, damage the portions of the brain that control hearing. When this occurs, the signals that get sent from your ear can’t be precisely processed, and tinnitus may happen consequently.
- 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.
- Nerve damage: A concussion may also trigger injury to the nerve that is responsible for transmitting the sounds you hear to your brain.
- Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: The relaying of sound to your brain is assisted by three tiny bones in your ear. A substantial impact (the kind that can cause a concussion, for example) can jostle these bones out of place. Tinnitus can be triggered by this and it can also disrupt your ability to hear.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: This kind of concussion takes place when the inner ear is damaged due to your TBI. This damage can produce inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Damage to your hearing: For members of the armed forces, TBIs and concussions are often a result of proximity to an explosion. Permanent hearing loss can be triggered when the stereocilia in your ears are damaged by the incredibly noisy 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.
Of course it’s important to keep in mind that no two brain injuries are precisely the same. Every patient will receive individualized care and instructions from us. Certainly, if you think you have suffered a traumatic brain injury or a concussion, you need to call us for an evaluation right away.
When you get a concussion and tinnitus is the consequence, how can it be treated?
Usually, it will be a temporary challenge if tinnitus is the result of a concussion. How long does tinnitus last after a concussion? Weeks or months, sadly, could be the time frame. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is permanent if it persists for more than a year. Over time, in these circumstances, treatment plans to manage your condition will be the best strategy.
This can be achieved by:
- Masking device: This device goes inside your ear much like a hearing aid, but it creates specific noises instead of making things louder. Your specific tinnitus symptoms dictate what sound the device will produce helping you ignore the tinnitus sounds and be better able to focus on voices and other external sounds.
- Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to ignore the sound by engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You ignore the sound after acknowledging it. This technique takes therapy and practice.
- Hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes dominant because the rest of the world goes into the background (as is the situation with non-TBI-caused hearing loss, everything else gets quieter, so your tinnitus seems louder). A hearing aid can help turn the volume up on everything else, ensuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.
In some situations, additional therapies may be required to achieve the expected result. Treatment of the root concussion might be required in order to get rid of the tinnitus. The right course of action will depend on the nature of your concussion and your TBI. This means an accurate diagnosis is incredibly important in this regard.
Discover what the right plan of treatment may be for you by giving us a call.
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 you’ve been in a car accident and your ears are ringing, you might wonder why.
Tinnitus may surface immediately or in the following days. But you can successfully manage tinnitus after a crash and that’s significant to keep in mind. Give us a call today to schedule an appointment.