You know that scene in your favorite action movie where something explodes next to the hero and the sound goes all high-pitched-buzzing? Well, at least some degree of minor brain trauma has likely happened to them.
To be certain, brain injuries aren’t the bit that most action movies linger on. But that high-pitched ringing is something known as tinnitus. Normally, hearing loss is the topic of a tinnitus conversation, but traumatic brain injuries can also trigger this condition.
Concussions, after all, are one of the more common traumatic brain injuries that occur. And there are lots of reasons concussions can happen (for example, falls, sporting accidents, and motor vehicle crashes). How something such as a concussion triggers tinnitus can be, well, complex. But here’s the good news: 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 a specific type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). One way to view it is that your brain is protected by sitting tightly in your skull. The brain will start moving around in your skull when something shakes your head violently. But because there’s so little extra space in there, your brain could literally smash into the inside of your skull.
This causes harm to your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be hit by your brain. And this is what brings about 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:
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Vomiting and nausea
- Slurred speech
- Loss of memory and confusion
- Blurry vision or dizziness
- Ringing in the ears
This list is not complete, but you get the idea. Several weeks to a few months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. Brain damage from a single concussion is typically not permanent, most individuals will end up making 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?
Is it really possible that a concussion may affect 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 minor brain injuries can lead to that ringing in your ears. That might happen in a few ways:
- Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three bones in your ear that help transfer sounds to your brain. A significant impact (the kind that can trigger a concussion, for instance) can push these bones out of position. This can interrupt your ability to hear and cause tinnitus.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: The onset of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome can be caused by a TBI. When pressure accumulates in the inner ear this condition can occur. Substantial hearing loss and tinnitus can become an issue over time as a result of Menier’s disease.
- Nerve damage: There’s also a nerve that is responsible for sending sounds you hear to your brain, which a concussion can harm.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI damages the inner ear this type of concussion occurs. Tinnitus and hearing loss, due to inflammation, can be the consequence of this damage.
- Damage to your hearing: For members of the military, TBIs and concussions are frequently related to distance to an explosion. And explosions are very loud, the sound and the shock wave can harm the stereocilia in your ear, triggering hearing loss and tinnitus. So it’s not so much that the concussion caused tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have the same underlying cause.
- Disruption of communication: In some instances, the part of your brain that controls hearing can become damaged by a concussion. Consequently, the messages sent from the ear to your brain can’t be precisely digested and tinnitus can be the outcome.
It’s important to emphasize that every traumatic brain injury and concussion is a little different. Individualized care and instructions, from us, will be provided to every patient. You should certainly give us a call for an assessment if you think you may have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
When you suffer from a concussion and tinnitus is the consequence, how can it be managed?
Most often, tinnitus related to a concussion or traumatic brain injury will be short-term. How long can tinnitus linger after a concussion? Well, it might last weeks or possibly months. Then again, if your tinnitus has lingered for more than a year, it’s likely to be permanent. Over time, in these circumstances, treatment plans to manage your condition will be the optimal plan.
Here are some ways to accomplish this:
- Hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes dominant because the rest of the world takes a back seat (as is the case with non-TBI-caused hearing loss, everything else becomes quieter, so your tinnitus sounds louder). Hearing aids help your tinnitus fade into the background by turning the volume up on everything else.
- Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to disregard the sound by undertaking cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You ignore the sound after acknowledging it. It will take some therapy, practice, and time though.
- Masking device: This device is a lot like a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things more loudly, it creates a particular noise in your ear. Your particular tinnitus symptoms determine what sound the device will generate helping you ignore the tinnitus sounds and be better able to pay attention to voices and other outside sounds.
In some cases, additional therapies might be necessary to achieve the expected result. Management of the underlying concussion might be necessary in order to make the tinnitus go away. The correct course of action will depend on the nature of your concussion and your TBI. This means a precise diagnosis is incredibly important in this regard.
Consult 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. It’s never a good day when you get concussed! And if you’ve been in a car crash and your ears are ringing, you may wonder why.
Tinnitus could surface immediately or in the following days. But you can effectively manage tinnitus after a crash and that’s significant to keep in mind. Call us today to make an appointment.