You Know when you’re viewing an action movie and the hero has a thunderous explosion close by and their ears begin to ring? Well, at least some level of minor brain trauma has likely happened to them.
To be certain, brain injuries aren’t the part that most action movies linger 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 it turns out that traumatic brain injuries like concussions can also trigger this particular ringing in the ears.
Concussions, after all, are one of the most prevalent traumatic brain injuries that occur. And there are lots of reasons concussions can happen (for instance, falls, sports accidents, and motor vehicle crashes). It can be a bit complicated sorting out how a concussion can lead to tinnitus. But the good news is that even if you suffer a brain injury that causes tinnitus, you can usually treat and manage your condition.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a specific kind of traumatic brain injury (TBI). One way to view it is that your brain is protected by fitting tightly in your skull. When anything comes along and shakes the head violently enough, your brain begins moving around in your skull. But your brain could end up smashing into the inside of your skull because of the little amount of additional space in there.
This causes harm to your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be impacted by your brain. And this is what causes a concussion. When you visualize this, it makes it simple to see how a concussion is literally brain damage. Here are some symptoms of a concussion:
- Ringing in the ears
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Loss of memory and confusion
- Blurry vision or dizziness
- Slurred speech
- Nausea and vomiting
Although this list makes the point, it’s in no way complete. Several weeks to several months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. Brain damage from one concussion is generally not permanent, most individuals will end up making a full recovery. But repeated concussions can result in irreversible brain damage.
How is tinnitus triggered by a concussion?
Can a concussion mess with your hearing? Really?
It’s an interesting question: what is the connection between concussions and tinnitus? Because it’s more accurate to say that traumatic brain injuries (even mild ones) can lead to tinnitus, it’s not just concussions. Even mild brain injuries can lead to that ringing in your ears. That may happen in a couple of ways:
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI damages the inner ear this form of concussion happens. This damage can produce inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the onset of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome. When pressure builds up in the inner ear this condition can occur. Sooner or later, Meniere’s syndrome can lead to significant tinnitus and hearing loss.
- Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some instances, damage the portions of the brain that manage hearing. Consequently, the messages sent from the ear to your brain can’t be properly digested and tinnitus can result.
- Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three bones in your ear that help send sounds to your brain. These bones can be knocked out of place by a significant concussive, impactive event. This can interrupt your ability to hear and cause tinnitus.
- Damage to your hearing: Experiencing an explosion at close distance is the cause of concussions and TBIs for lots of members of the military. And explosions are really loud, the noise and the shock wave can harm 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.
- Nerve damage: A concussion may also cause damage to the nerve that is responsible for transferring the sounds you hear to your brain.
Of course it’s important to keep in mind that no two brain injuries are exactly the same. Individualized care and instructions, from us, will be provided to every patient. Indeed, if you think you have suffered a traumatic brain injury or a concussion, you should call us for an assessment right away.
When you suffer from a concussion and tinnitus is the consequence, how can it be treated?
Typically, it will be a temporary challenge if tinnitus is the result of a concussion. How long can tinnitus last after a concussion? Well, it may last weeks or possibly months. However, if your tinnitus has lingered for more than a year, it’s likely to be long lasting. In these cases, the treatment plan changes to controlling your symptoms over the long run.
This can be accomplished by:
- Hearing aid: In a similar way to when you have 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, ensuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.
- Masking device: This device is similar to a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things louder, it creates a specific noise in your ear. This noise is custom tailored to your tinnitus, drowning out the sound so you can focus on voices, or other sounds you actually want to hear.
- Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to overlook the sound by engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You acknowledge that the noise is present, and then ignore it. This technique requires therapy and practice.
In some cases, additional therapies may be necessary to achieve the expected result. Getting rid of the tinnitus will frequently call for treatment to the root concussion. The best course of action will depend on the status of your concussion and your TBI. This means a precise diagnosis is extremely important in this regard.
Consult us about what the ideal treatment plan may look like for you.
TBI-triggered tinnitus can be managed
Your life can be traumatically impacted by a concussion. When you get a concussion, it’s a bad day! And if you’ve been in a car crash and your ears are ringing, you may wonder why.
Tinnitus may emerge immediately or in the days that follow. But you can effectively manage tinnitus after a crash and that’s important to keep in mind. Contact us today to make an appointment.