You know that scene in your favorite action movie where something blows up next to the hero and the sound goes all high-pitched-buzzing? Well, guess what: that most likely means our hero suffered at least a minor traumatic brain injury!
To be sure, brain injuries aren’t the part that most action movies linger on. But that ringing in our hero’s ears signifies a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most often talked about from the perspective of hearing loss, but it turns out that traumatic brain injuries like 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 occur (car accidents, sports accidents, and falls, for instance). It can be a bit complex sorting out how a concussion can trigger tinnitus. But here’s the good news: even if you suffer a brain injury that triggers tinnitus, you can usually treat and manage your condition.
Concussions, exactly what are they?
A concussion is brain trauma of a very specific type. One way to think about it is that your brain is protected by sitting tightly in your skull. When anything occurs and shakes the head violently enough, your brain starts moving around inside of your skull. But because there’s so little additional space in there, your brain could literally crash into the inside of your skull.
This harms your brain! The brain can impact one or more sides of your skull. And this is what brings about a concussion. This example makes it quite clear that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Symptoms of concussions include the following:
- Vomiting and nausea
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Loss of memory and confusion
- Ringing in the ears
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- Slurred speech
Although this list makes the point, it’s certainly not exhaustive. A few weeks to several months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. Brain injury from a single concussion is typically not permanent, most individuals will end up making a complete recovery. But repeated concussions can cause irreversible brain damage.
How do concussions trigger tinnitus?
Is it actually possible that a concussion may affect your hearing?
It’s an interesting question: what is the link between concussions and tinnitus? Not surprisingly, concussions won’t be the only brain traumas that can cause tinnitus symptoms. That ringing in your ears can be triggered by even minor brain injuries. Here are a few ways that may happen:
- Damage to your hearing: Enduring an explosion at close distance is the cause of concussions and TBIs for lots of members of the armed forces. And explosions are really loud, the noise and the shock wave can damage the stereocilia in your ear, causing hearing loss and tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t inevitably caused by a concussion, but they definitely do share some root causes.
- Disruption of communication: In some cases, the portion of your brain that manages hearing can become damaged by a concussion. Consequently, the messages sent from the ear to your brain can’t be correctly processed and tinnitus can result.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: This kind of concussion occurs when the inner ear is damaged due to your TBI. This damage can create inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Nerve damage: A concussion might also trigger damage to the nerve that is in charge of 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 instance) can jostle these bones out of position. This can interrupt your ability to hear and result in tinnitus.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: The onset of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome can be a consequence of a TBI. This is a consequence of an accumulation of pressure within the inner ear. Sooner or later, Meniere’s syndrome can result in noticeable tinnitus and hearing loss.
Of course it’s important to keep in mind that no two brain injuries are precisely the same. Every patient will receive personalized care and instructions from us. You should definitely contact us for an assessment if you think you may have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
When you get a concussion and tinnitus is the consequence, how can it be managed?
Usually, it will be a temporary scenario if tinnitus is the result of a concussion. How long does tinnitus linger after a concussion? Weeks or possibly months, unfortunately, could be the time period. However, if your tinnitus has lasted for more than a year, it’s likely to be permanent. Over time, in these situations, treatment plans to manage your condition will be the optimal plan.
This can be achieved by:
- Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to ignore the sound by undertaking cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You ignore the sound after acknowledging it. This technique takes therapy and practice.
- Hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes prominent because the rest of the world goes into the background (as is the case with non-TBI-caused hearing loss, everything else gets quieter, so your tinnitus sounds louder). A hearing aid can help turn the volume up on everything else, ensuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.
- Masking device: This device goes inside your ear a lot like a hearing aid, but it generates specific noises instead of making things louder. Your distinct tinnitus symptoms dictate what sound the device will generate helping you disregard the tinnitus sounds and be better able to pay attention to voices and other external sounds.
In some situations, further therapies might be necessary to obtain the expected result. Clearing up the tinnitus will often call for treatment to the root concussion. The best course of action will depend on the nature of your concussion and your TBI. In this regard, a precise diagnosis is key.
Find out what the best plan of treatment might be for you by getting in touch with us.
You can manage tinnitus caused by a TBI
Your life can be traumatically affected by a concussion. 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 might wonder why.
It could be days later or instantly after the crash that tinnitus symptoms surface. But you can effectively control tinnitus after a crash and that’s significant to keep in mind. Schedule a consultation with us right away.