You know that scene in your favorite action movie where something blows up next to the hero and the sound gets all high-pitched-buzzing? Well, at least some degree of mild brain trauma has likely happened to them.
Naturally, action movies don’t highlight the brain injury part. But that high-pitched ringing is something called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most often discussed in the context of hearing loss, but actually, traumatic brain injuries like concussions can also cause this particular ringing in the ears.
After all, one of the most common traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And they can occur for a wide variety of reasons (car accidents, sporting accidents, and falls, for instance). How something like a concussion causes tinnitus can be, well, complex. But here’s the good news: even if you suffer a brain injury that triggers tinnitus, you can normally treat and manage your condition.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a particular kind 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 occurs 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 small amount of additional space in there.
This causes harm to your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be impacted by your brain. And when this occurs, you get a concussion. When you visualize this, it makes it easy to understand how a concussion is quite literally brain damage. Symptoms of concussions include the following:
- Ringing in the ears
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Slurred speech
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurry vision or dizziness
- Confusion and loss of memory
Even though this list makes the point, it’s by no means exhaustive. Symptoms from a concussion can persist anywhere between a few weeks and several months. When somebody gets one concussion, they will usually make a complete recovery. But, repetitive or multiple concussions are a bigger problem (generally speaking, it’s the best idea to avoid these).
How do concussions trigger tinnitus?
Can a concussion interfere with your hearing? Really?
It’s an interesting question: what is the link between tinnitus and concussions? Because it’s more accurate to say that traumatic brain injuries (even minor ones) can cause tinnitus, It isn’t only concussions. That ringing in your ears can be triggered by even minor brain injuries. Here are a few ways that might occur:
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: This type of concussion takes place when the inner ear is injured as a result of your TBI. This damage can create inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: The development of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome can be caused by a TBI. This is a consequence of an accumulation of pressure within the inner ear. Eventually, Meniere’s syndrome can lead to noticeable tinnitus and hearing loss.
- Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three bones in your ear that help transmit sounds to your brain. These bones can be knocked out of place by a significant concussive, impactive event. Tinnitus can be triggered by this and it can also disrupt your hearing.
- Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some situations, damage the portions of the brain that manage hearing. Consequently, the messages sent from the ear to your brain can’t be precisely digested and tinnitus can result.
- Nerve damage: There’s also a nerve that is responsible for transmitting sounds you hear to your brain, which a concussion can damage.
- Damage to your hearing: For members of the armed forces, TBIs and concussions are often caused by distance to an explosion. And explosions are very loud, the sound and the shock wave can damage the stereocilia in your ear, triggering hearing loss and tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t inevitably caused by a concussion, but they definitely do share some common causes.
Of course it’s important to note that no two brain injuries are exactly alike. Personalized care and instructions, from us, will be given to every patient. Indeed, if you think you have experienced a traumatic brain injury or a concussion, you should call us for an assessment as soon as possible.
When you get 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? Weeks or possibly months, unfortunately, could be the time period. However, if your tinnitus has lingered for more than a year, it’s likely to be long lasting. Over time, in these circumstances, treatment plans to manage your condition will be the optimal strategy.
Here are some ways to achieve this:
- Hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes dominant 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 seems louder). Hearing aids help your tinnitus go into the background by turning up the volume on everything else.
- Masking device: This device goes in your ear a lot like a hearing aid, but it produces specific noises instead of making things louder. This noise is customized to your tinnitus, overpowering the sound so you can pay attention to voices, or other sounds you actually want to hear.
- Therapy: In some cases, therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be utilized to help patients disregard the noise caused by their tinnitus. You accept that the noise is there, and then disregard it. This technique takes therapy and practice.
Achieving the expected result will, in some cases, call for added therapies. Getting rid of the tinnitus will often call for 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.
Discover what the best plan of treatment may be for you by giving us a call.
TBI-triggered tinnitus can be controlled
Your life can be traumatically impacted by a concussion. When you get concussed, it’s a bad day! And if you have ringing in your ears, you may ask yourself, why do I have ringing in my ears after a car crash?
It could be days later or immediately after the crash that tinnitus symptoms surface. But you can effectively control tinnitus after an accident and that’s important to keep in mind. Schedule a consultation with us today.