You Know when you’re watching an action movie and the hero has a thunderous explosion nearby and their ears start ringing? Well, guess what: that probably means our hero suffered at least a mild traumatic brain injury!
Obviously, action movies don’t emphasize the brain injury part. But that ringing in our hero’s ears signifies a condition called tinnitus. Normally, hearing loss is the topic of a tinnitus conversation, but traumatic brain injuries can also cause this condition.
After all, one of the most prevalent traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And they can occur for many reasons (car crashes, sports accidents, and falls, for example). How something such as a concussion causes tinnitus can be, well, complicated. But the good news is that even if you sustain 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 particular type. Think about it like this: your brain is nestled pretty tightly inside your skull (your brain is big, and your skull is there to protect it). 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 hurts your brain! The brain can impact one or more sides of your skull. And this is what leads to a concussion. When you visualize this, it makes it easy to understand how a concussion is quite literally brain damage. Here are a few symptoms of a concussion:
- Ringing in the ears
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Blurry vision or dizziness
- Loss of memory and confusion
- Slurred speech
- Vomiting and nausea
This list is not complete, but you get the point. Symptoms from a concussion can continue anywhere between several weeks and several months. When somebody gets a single concussion, they will usually make a full recovery. However, repeated or multiple concussions are a bigger problem (generally speaking, it’s a good idea to avoid these).
How do concussions cause tinnitus?
Is it actually feasible that a concussion could impact your hearing?
It’s an intriguing question: what is the link between tinnitus and concussions? After all, concussions aren’t the only brain traumas that can cause tinnitus symptoms. Even mild brain injuries can result in that ringing in your ears. That may occur in a few ways:
- Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the development of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome. When pressure accumulates in the inner ear this condition can happen. Substantial hearing loss and tinnitus can become an issue over time as a result of Menier’s disease.
- Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three tiny bones in your ear that help transmit sounds to your brain. A major impact (the kind that can cause a concussion, for instance) can push these bones out of position. This can interrupt your ability to hear and result in tinnitus.
- Damage to your hearing: For members of the military, TBIs and concussions are frequently related to distance to an explosion. Irreversible hearing loss can be caused when the stereocilia in your ears are injured 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 root cause.
- Disruption of communication: In some instances, the part of your brain that manages hearing can become damaged by a concussion. When this happens, the messages that get transmitted from your ear can’t be precisely dealt with, and tinnitus might happen as a result.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: This form of concussion happens when the inner ear is injured due to your TBI. Tinnitus and hearing loss, due to inflammation, can be the consequence of this damage.
- Nerve damage: A concussion might also trigger injury to the nerve that is responsible for transmitting the sounds you hear to your brain.
It’s important to emphasize that every traumatic brain injury and concussion is a little different. Every patient will get individualized care and instructions from us. You should certainly contact us for an assessment if you believe you might have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
How do you treat tinnitus caused by a concussion?
Usually, it will be a temporary scenario if tinnitus is the consequence of a concussion. After a concussion, how long can I expect my tinnitus to last? Well, it might last weeks or months. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is permanent if it persists for more than a year. In these situations, the treatment plan transitions to managing your symptoms over the long term.
This can be accomplished by:
- Masking device: This device goes inside your ear much like a hearing aid, but it produces specific noises instead of amplifying things. This noise is custom tailored to your tinnitus, overpowering the sound so you can focus on voices, or other sounds you really want to hear.
- Therapy: In some situations, therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to help patients ignore the noise caused by their tinnitus. You disregard the sound after acknowledging it. It will take some therapy, practice, and time though.
- 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. A hearing aid can help turn the volume up on everything else, assuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.
In some situations, further therapies might be required to achieve the desired result. Clearing up the tinnitus will frequently require treatment to the underlying concussion. The correct course of action will depend on the status of your concussion and your TBI. In this regard, a precise diagnosis is key.
Talk to us about what the right treatment plan might look like for you.
You can manage tinnitus caused by a TBI
Your life can be traumatically affected by a concussion. When you get concussed, it’s a bad day! And if you have ringing in your ears, you might ask yourself, why do I have ringing in my ears after a car crash?
Tinnitus could emerge immediately or in the following days. But you can effectively control tinnitus after a crash and that’s important to keep in mind. Contact us today to make an appointment.