You Know when you’re viewing an action movie and the hero has a loud explosion nearby and their ears begin to ring? Well, guess what: that most likely means our hero suffered at least a mild traumatic brain injury!
To be sure, brain injuries aren’t the bit that most action movies linger on. 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 trigger this condition.
After all, one of the most prevalent traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And there are lots of reasons concussions can happen (for example, falls, sporting accidents, and motor vehicle crashes). It can be a bit complex sorting out how a concussion can cause tinnitus. But here’s the good news: even if you suffer 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. One way to view it is that your brain is protected by fitting snuggly in your skull. When something 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 crash into the inside of your skull.
This causes damage to your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be hit by your brain. And when this occurs, you experience a concussion. This example makes it quite clear that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Symptoms of concussions include the following:
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Loss of memory and confusion
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- Vomiting and nausea
- Slurred speech
- Ringing in the ears
This list is not complete, but you get the point. Symptoms from a concussion can persist anywhere between a few weeks and several months. Brain damage from a single concussion is generally not permanent, most individuals will end up making 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 trigger tinnitus?
Can a concussion mess with your hearing? Really?
The question of concussions and tinnitus is an interesting one. Because it’s more correct to say that traumatic brain injuries (even minor ones) can result in tinnitus, it’s not just concussions. That ringing in your ears can be activated by even minor brain injuries. Here are a couple of ways that may occur:
- Disruption of communication: In some instances, the part of your brain that controls hearing can become harmed by a concussion. When this happens, the messages that get transmitted from your ear can’t be precisely dealt with, and tinnitus may happen consequently.
- Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: The transmission of sound to your brain is aided by three tiny bones in your ear. A significant impact (the type that can cause a concussion, for example) can jostle these bones out of position. Tinnitus can be caused by this and it can also interrupt your ability to hear.
- Damage to your hearing: Enduring an explosion at close distance is the cause of concussions and TBIs for lots of members of the armed forces. And explosions are really loud, the sound and the shock wave can damage the stereocilia in your ear, causing hearing loss and tinnitus. So it’s not so much that the concussion brought about tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have the same root cause.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI damages the inner ear this form of concussion occurs. This damage can cause inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Nerve damage: There’s also a nerve that is responsible for sending sounds you hear to your brain, which a concussion can harm.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the onset of a condition called Meniere’s Syndrome. When pressure builds up in the inner ear this condition can occur. Eventually, Meniere’s syndrome can lead to noticeable tinnitus and hearing loss.
Of course it’s significant to keep in mind that no two brain injuries are exactly the same. Every patient will receive personalized care and instructions from us. Certainly, if you think you have experienced a traumatic brain injury or a concussion, you should call us for an assessment right away.
When you get a concussion and tinnitus is the result, how can it be treated?
Most often, tinnitus related to a concussion or traumatic brain damage will be short-term. How long does tinnitus linger after a concussion? Weeks or possibly months, unfortunately, could be the time frame. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is long lasting if it persists for more than a year. 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 takes a back seat (as is the situation with non-TBI-caused hearing loss, everything else gets quieter, so your tinnitus seems louder). A hearing aid can help raise the volume of everything else, assuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.
- Masking device: This device is a lot like a hearing aid, but instead of helping you hear things louder, it creates a specific noise in your ear. Your distinct tinnitus symptoms dictate what sound the device will generate helping you disregard the tinnitus sounds and be better able to focus on voices and other outside sounds.
- Therapy: In some cases, therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be utilized to help patients ignore the noise produced by their tinnitus. You acknowledge that the noise is present, and then ignore it. This technique requires therapy and practice.
In some situations, additional therapies might be required to achieve the desired result. Treatment of the root concussion may be required in order to get rid of the tinnitus. Depending on the status of your concussion, there may be several possible courses of action. As a result, an accurate diagnosis is extremely important in this regard.
Find out what the best plan of treatment might be for you by getting in touch with us.
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.
Tinnitus may surface immediately or in the days that follow. However, it’s important to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be managed effectively. Schedule a consultation with us today.