You Know when you’re viewing an action movie and the hero has a loud explosion close by and their ears begin to ring? Well, at least some degree of mild brain trauma has likely happened to them.
To be sure, 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. Normally, hearing loss is the subject of a tinnitus conversation, but traumatic brain injuries can also trigger this condition.
Concussions, after all, are one of the most prevalent traumatic brain injuries that occur. And they can occur for numerous reasons (car accidents, sports accidents, and falls, for instance). How something like a concussion causes tinnitus can be, well, complicated. Luckily, treating and managing your conditions is typically very achievable.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is brain trauma of a very specific kind. One way to think about it is that your brain is protected by fitting snuggly 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 extra space in there, your brain may literally smash into the inside of your skull.
This causes harm to your brain! The brain can impact one or more sides of your skull. And when this occurs, you experience a concussion. When you visualize this, it makes it easy to see how a concussion is quite literally brain damage. Here are a few symptoms of a concussion:
- Confusion and loss of memory
- Ringing in the ears
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Slurred speech
- Vomiting and nausea
- Dizziness and blurred vision
This list is not complete, but you get the idea. Symptoms from a concussion can continue anywhere between a few weeks and a few months. When somebody gets a single concussion, they will usually make a complete recovery. However, repeated or multiple concussions are a bigger problem (generally speaking, it’s the best idea to avoid these).
How do concussions cause tinnitus?
Is it really possible that a concussion could affect your hearing?
It’s an intriguing question: what is the connection between concussions and tinnitus? Because it’s more correct to say that traumatic brain injuries (even minor ones) can lead to tinnitus, it’s not only concussions. Even minor brain injuries can result in that ringing in your ears. That might occur in a couple of ways:
- Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three bones in your ear that help transmit sounds to your brain. These bones can be pushed out of place by a substantial concussive, impactive event. This can disrupt 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 caused by the buildup of pressure inside of the inner ear. Sooner or later, Meniere’s syndrome can result in noticeable tinnitus and hearing loss.
- Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some cases, damage the portions of the brain that manage hearing. When this occurs, the signals that get transmitted from your ear can’t be correctly dealt with, and tinnitus may happen consequently.
- Damage to your hearing: Enduring an explosion at close range is the cause of concussions and TBIs for many members of the armed forces. Irreversible hearing loss can be triggered when the stereocilia in your ears are injured by the exceptionally noisy shock wave of an explosion. So it’s not so much that the concussion caused tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have the same underlying cause.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: This kind of concussion takes place when the inner ear is injured as a result of your TBI. Tinnitus and hearing loss, due to inflammation, can be the result of this damage.
- Nerve damage: There’s also a nerve that is responsible for sending sounds you hear to your brain, which a concussion can damage.
Of course it’s important to note that no two brain injuries are exactly the same. Personalized care and instructions, from us, will be provided to every patient. You should certainly contact 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?
Typically, it will be a temporary scenario if tinnitus is the result of a concussion. After a concussion, how long can I expect my tinnitus to last? Weeks or possibly months, unfortunately, could be the time period. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is permanent if it lasts more than a year. In these situations, the treatment strategy transitions to managing your symptoms over the long run.
Here are some ways to achieve this:
- 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. Hearing aids help your tinnitus fade into the background by turning the volume up on everything else.
- Masking device: This device is similar to a hearing aid, but instead of helping you hear things louder, it produces a particular noise in your ear. Your particular 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.
- Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to ignore the sound by engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You accept that the noise is there, and then ignore it. It will require some therapy, practice, and time though.
In some cases, further therapies might be necessary to accomplish the desired result. Getting rid of the tinnitus will frequently require treatment to the root concussion. The right course of action will depend on the nature of your concussion and your TBI. This means an accurate diagnosis is extremely important in this regard.
Consult us about what the right treatment plan might look like for you.
TBI-caused tinnitus can be managed
A concussion can be a substantial and traumatic situation in your life. 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 may be days later or instantly after the accident that tinnitus symptoms emerge. However, it’s important to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be successfully managed. Schedule a consultation with us right away.