You Know when you’re viewing an action movie and the hero has a thunderous explosion close by and their ears start ringing? Well, guess what: that probably means our hero sustained at least a mild traumatic brain injury!
Naturally, action movies don’t emphasize the brain injury part. But that high-pitched ringing is something called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most often talked about from the perspective of hearing loss, but actually, traumatic brain injuries such as concussions can also trigger this particular ringing in the ears.
After all, one of the most common traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And there are quite a few reasons concussions can happen (for example, falls, sporting accidents, and motor vehicle crashes). It can be somewhat complicated sorting out how a concussion can trigger tinnitus. But here’s the good news: even if you sustain a brain injury that triggers tinnitus, you can normally treat and manage your condition.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is brain trauma of a very specific kind. Think about it this way: your brain is situated pretty tightly into your skull (your brain is big, and your skull is there to protect it). The brain will begin to move around inside your skull when something shakes your head violently. But your brain could end up crashing into the inside of your skull because of the little amount of extra space in there.
This hurts 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 simple to understand how a concussion is quite literally brain damage. Symptoms of concussions include the following:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Slurred speech
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- Loss of memory and confusion
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Ringing in the ears
This list isn’t complete, but you get the point. Symptoms from a concussion can persist anywhere between several weeks and a few months. When somebody gets a single concussion, they will typically make a full recovery. However, repetitive or multiple concussions are a bigger problem (generally, it’s a good idea to avoid these).
How is tinnitus caused by a concussion?
Is it really possible that a concussion could affect your hearing?
The question of concussions and tinnitus is an intriguing one. Not surprisingly, concussions are not the only brain traumas that can cause tinnitus symptoms. That ringing in your ears can be set off by even minor brain injuries. That might happen in a few ways:
- Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the development of a condition called Meniere’s Syndrome. When pressure builds up 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.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI injures the inner ear this kind of concussion occurs. This damage can create inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Damage to your hearing: For members of the armed forces, TBIs and concussions are often related to distance to an explosion. Permanent hearing loss can be caused when the stereocilia in your ears are damaged by the exceptionally loud 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.
- Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three tiny bones in your ear that help transfer sounds to your brain. These bones can be knocked out of place by a substantial concussive, impactive event. This can disrupt your ability to hear and result in tinnitus.
- Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some cases, damage the parts of the brain that manage hearing. When this happens, the messages that get sent from your ear cannot be correctly processed, and tinnitus may occur consequently.
- Nerve damage: There’s also a nerve that is in charge of transmitting sounds you hear to your brain, which a concussion can damage.
Of course it’s important to keep in mind that no two brain injuries are exactly alike. Individualized care and instructions, from us, will be provided to every patient. Certainly, if you think you have suffered a traumatic brain injury or a concussion, you need to call us for an assessment right away.
How do you treat tinnitus from a concussion?
Usually, it will be a temporary situation if tinnitus is the consequence of a concussion. How long does tinnitus linger after a concussion? Weeks or months, sadly, could be the time period. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is long lasting if it lasts more than a year. In these situations, the treatment approach transitions to managing your symptoms over the long term.
This can be achieved by:
- 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 go into the background by turning the volume up on everything else.
- Therapy: In some cases, therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to help patients disregard the noise produced by their tinnitus. You accept that the noise is present, and then ignore it. This technique requires therapy and practice.
- Masking device: This device is similar to a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things more loudly, it produces a particular noise in your ear. Your particular tinnitus symptoms dictate what sound the device will produce helping you disregard the tinnitus sounds and be better able to pay attention to voices and other outside sounds.
Achieving the expected result will, in some cases, call for added therapies. Clearing up the tinnitus will often call for treatment to the root concussion. Depending on the status of your concussion, there could be several possible courses of action. As a result, an accurate diagnosis is incredibly important in this regard.
Learn what the right plan of treatment might be for you by getting in touch with us.
You can control tinnitus caused by a TBI
A concussion can be a substantial and traumatic event in your life. When you get concussed, it’s a bad day! And if you’ve been in a car crash and your ears are ringing, you might wonder why.
Tinnitus could surface instantly or in the days that follow. But you can effectively control tinnitus after a crash and that’s significant to keep in mind. Give us a call today to make an appointment.