You know that scene in your favorite action movie where something blows up near 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 sure, brain injuries aren’t the part that most action movies focus on. But that ringing in our hero’s ears represents a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most frequently talked about in the context of hearing loss, but actually, traumatic brain injuries such as concussions can also cause this particular ringing in the ears.
After all, one of the most common traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And there are a number of reasons concussions can happen (car crashes, sports accidents, and falls, for instance). It can be somewhat complicated sorting out how a concussion can trigger tinnitus. Luckily, treating and managing your conditions is usually very achievable.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is brain trauma of a very distinct type. One way to view it is that your brain is protected by fitting snuggly in your skull. The brain will start moving around inside your skull when something shakes your head violently. But your brain could wind up crashing into the inside of your skull because of the little amount of additional space in there.
This causes damage to your brain! The brain can impact one or more sides of your skull. And when this occurs, you get a concussion. This illustration makes it quite clear that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Here are a few symptoms of a concussion:
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Slurred speech
- Vomiting and nausea
- Ringing in the ears
- Blurry vision or dizziness
- Confusion and loss of memory
This list is not complete, but you get the point. A few weeks to several months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. Brain injury from one concussion is typically not permanent, most people will end up making a full recovery. But recurring concussions can lead to permanent brain damage.
How do concussions cause tinnitus?
Can a concussion mess with your hearing? Really?
It’s an interesting question: what is the connection between concussions and tinnitus? Because it’s more accurate to say that traumatic brain injuries (even mild ones) can cause tinnitus, it’s not only concussions. That ringing in your ears can be triggered by even minor brain injuries. That might happen in a couple of ways:
- Disruption of communication: In some instances, the part of your brain that controls hearing can become damaged by a concussion. As a result, the signals sent from the ear to your brain can’t be properly digested and tinnitus can result.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: This kind of concussion occurs when the inner ear is damaged as a result of your TBI. Tinnitus and hearing loss, due to inflammation, can be the result of this damage.
- Damage to your hearing: Experiencing an explosion at close distance is the cause of concussions and TBIs for lots of members of the armed forces. Permanent hearing loss can be triggered when the stereocilia in your ears are injured by the exceptionally noisy shock wave of an explosion. So it’s not so much that the concussion brought about 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 send sounds to your brain. A major impact (the type that can cause a concussion, for instance) can jostle these bones out of place. This can disrupt your ability to hear and result in tinnitus.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: The onset of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome can be caused by a TBI. This is a result of the buildup of pressure inside of the inner ear. Eventually, Meniere’s syndrome can lead to significant tinnitus and hearing loss.
- Nerve damage: A concussion may also trigger injury to the nerve that is in charge of transferring the sounds you hear to your brain.
Of course it’s significant to keep in mind that no two brain injuries are exactly the same. Individualized care and instructions, from us, will be provided to every patient. You should definitely contact us for an assessment if you believe you may have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
When you suffer from a concussion and tinnitus is the consequence, how can it be treated?
Typically, it will be a temporary challenge if tinnitus is the consequence of a concussion. How long can tinnitus linger after a concussion? Weeks or possibly months, unfortunately, could be the time period. However, if your tinnitus has lasted for more than a year, it’s likely to be permanent. In these circumstances, the treatment plan transitions to controlling your symptoms over the long term.
Here are some ways to achieve this:
- Masking device: This device goes in your ear a lot like a hearing aid, but it generates specific noises instead of amplifying things. Your particular tinnitus symptoms dictate what sound the device will generate helping you ignore the tinnitus sounds and be better able to focus on voices and other outside sounds.
- Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to ignore the sound by undertaking cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You acknowledge that the noise is there, and then ignore it. It will take some therapy, practice, and time though.
- 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 up the volume on everything else.
Achieving the desired result will, in some cases, require additional therapies. Treatment of the root concussion may be necessary in order to get rid of the tinnitus. Depending on the nature of your concussion, there could be a number of possible courses of action. In this regard, a precise diagnosis is key.
Consult us about what the right treatment plan might look like for you.
You can control tinnitus caused by a TBI
A concussion can be a significant and traumatic situation in your life. It’s never a good day when you get a concussion! And if you’ve been in a car crash and your ears are ringing, you might wonder why.
Tinnitus may emerge instantly or in the following days. But you can effectively manage tinnitus after an accident and that’s significant to keep in mind. Schedule a consultation with us right away.