You know that scene in your favorite action movie where something explodes near the hero and the sound gets all high-pitched-buzzing? Well, guess what: that probably means our hero sustained at least a mild traumatic brain injury!
Naturally, action movies don’t emphasize the brain injury part. But that ringing in our hero’s ears represents a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most frequently 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 prevalent traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And there are quite a few reasons concussions can happen (car accidents, sporting accidents, and falls, for example). It can be a bit complex sorting out how a concussion can cause tinnitus. Luckily, treating and managing your conditions is typically very attainable.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a particular type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). One way to think about it is that your brain is protected by sitting tightly in your skull. When anything comes along and shakes the head violently enough, your brain begins moving around in your skull. But because there’s so little extra space in there, your brain may literally smash into the inside of your skull.
This causes damage to your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be impacted by your brain. And when this happens, you experience a concussion. This illustration makes it quite evident that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Here are a few symptoms of a concussion:
- Blurry vision or dizziness
- Slurred speech
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Ringing in the ears
- Loss of memory and confusion
- Vomiting and nausea
Although this list makes the point, it’s certainly not complete. Symptoms from a concussion can continue anywhere between several weeks and a few months. When somebody gets one concussion, they will normally make a complete recovery. But repeated concussions can result in irreversible brain damage.
How do concussions trigger tinnitus?
Is it really feasible that a concussion could affect your hearing?
It’s an interesting question: what is the connection between concussions and tinnitus? Not surprisingly, concussions won’t be the only brain traumas that can cause tinnitus symptoms. Even mild brain injuries can result in that ringing in your ears. Here are a couple of ways that may take place:
- Damage to your hearing: Experiencing an explosion at close distance is the cause of concussions and TBIs for lots of members of the military. Irreversible hearing loss can be triggered when the stereocilia in your ears are damaged by the incredibly loud shock wave of an explosion. So it isn’t so much that the concussion brought about tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have a common underlying cause.
- Nerve damage: A concussion may also trigger injury to the nerve that is responsible for transmitting the sounds you hear to your brain.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the development of a condition called Meniere’s Syndrome. This is a result of an accumulation of pressure inside of the inner ear. Eventually, Meniere’s syndrome can result in significant tinnitus and hearing loss.
- Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some situations, damage the parts of the brain that control hearing. When this happens, the signals that get sent from your ear cannot be properly dealt with, and tinnitus might happen consequently.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI injures the inner ear this type of concussion happens. This damage can cause inflammation and cause both hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: The relaying 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 place. Tinnitus can be triggered by this and it can also disrupt your hearing.
Of course it’s important to keep in mind that no two brain injuries are exactly the same. Personalized 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 need to call us for an evaluation as soon as possible.
When you get a concussion and tinnitus is the result, how can it be addressed?
Most often, tinnitus caused by a concussion or traumatic brain injury will be short-term. After a concussion, how long can I anticipate my tinnitus to last? Weeks or possibly months, unfortunately, could be the time frame. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is irreversible if it lasts more than a year. In these cases, the treatment plan changes to controlling your symptoms over the long run.
This can be achieved by:
- 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. Hearing aids help your tinnitus go into the background by turning the volume up on everything else.
- Masking device: This device is a lot like a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things more loudly, it produces a distinct noise in your ear. Your particular tinnitus symptoms dictate what sound the device will generate helping you ignore the tinnitus sounds and be better able to focus on voices and other outside sounds.
- Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to ignore the sound by undertaking cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You disregard the sound after acknowledging it. This technique takes therapy and practice.
In some cases, further therapies might be necessary to obtain the desired result. Management of the underlying concussion might be required in order to make the tinnitus go away. 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 right plan of treatment might be for you by giving us a call.
You can control tinnitus caused by a TBI
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.
It could be days later or immediately after the crash that tinnitus symptoms surface. However, it’s important to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be successfully managed. Schedule a consultation with us right away.