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 amount of mild brain trauma has likely happened to them.
To be certain, brain injuries aren’t the bit that most action movies focus on. But that ringing in our hero’s ears signifies a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most often talked about from the perspective of hearing loss, but it turns out that traumatic brain injuries such as concussions can also cause this particular ringing in the ears.
Concussions, after all, are one of the most prevalent traumatic brain injuries that happen. And they can happen for a wide variety of reasons (car accidents, sports accidents, and falls, for example). It can be a bit complex sorting out how a concussion can trigger tinnitus. Fortunately, treating and managing your conditions is usually very achievable.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is brain trauma of a very distinct kind. One way to think about it is that your brain is protected by fitting tightly in your skull. When something comes along and shakes the head violently enough, your brain begins moving around in your skull. But your brain could end up crashing into the inside of your skull because of the small amount of extra space in there.
This hurts your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be impacted by your brain. And when this occurs, you get a concussion. This example makes it quite evident that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Symptoms of concussions include the following:
- Blurry vision or dizziness
- Confusion and loss of memory
- A slow or delayed response to questions
- Nausea and vomiting
- Ringing in the ears
- Slurred speech
Although this list makes the point, it’s certainly not complete. Symptoms from a concussion can persist anywhere between a few weeks and a few months. Brain damage from a single concussion is typically not permanent, most individuals will end up making a total recovery. However, repeated or multiple concussions are a different story (generally, it’s the best idea to avoid these).
How do concussions trigger tinnitus?
Can a concussion mess with your hearing? Really?
The matter of concussions and tinnitus is an intriguing one. Because it’s more accurate to say that traumatic brain injuries (even minor ones) can cause tinnitus, it’s not only concussions. Even mild brain injuries can lead to that ringing in your ears. That might occur in a couple of ways:
- 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. Permanent hearing loss can be triggered when the stereocilia in your ears are injured by the incredibly loud shock wave of an explosion. Tinnitus isn’t always caused by a concussion, but they definitely do share some common causes.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: The development of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome can be a consequence of a TBI. When pressure builds up in the inner ear this condition can happen. Substantial hearing loss and tinnitus can become a problem over time as a result of Menier’s disease.
- Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some instances, damage the parts of the brain that control hearing. As a result, the messages sent from the ear to your brain can’t be correctly digested and tinnitus can be the outcome.
- Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three tiny bones in your ear that help transfer sounds to your brain. A substantial impact (the kind that can trigger a concussion, for example) can jostle these bones out of place. This can disrupt your ability to hear and result in tinnitus.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI injures the inner ear this type of concussion happens. This damage can produce inflammation and cause both hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Nerve damage: There’s also a nerve that is in charge of sending sounds you hear to your brain, which a concussion can harm.
Of course it’s important to note that no two brain injuries are exactly alike. Every patient will receive individualized care and instructions from us. You should certainly give us a call for an evaluation if you believe you might have suffered a traumatic brain injury.
How do you treat tinnitus caused by a concussion?
Most frequently, tinnitus related to a concussion or traumatic brain injury will be temporary. After a concussion, how long can I expect my tinnitus to last? Well, it might last weeks or possibly months. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is permanent if it lasts more than a year. In these cases, the treatment plan changes to managing your symptoms over the long term.
Here are some ways to achieve this:
- Therapy: In some situations, therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to help patients disregard the noise produced by their tinnitus. You disregard the sound after acknowledging it. It will require some therapy, practice, and time though.
- Masking device: This device is similar to a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things more loudly, it creates a particular noise in your ear. This noise is custom tailored to your tinnitus, overpowering the sound so you can pay attention to voices, or other sounds you actually want to hear.
- 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 fade into the background by turning up the volume on everything else.
Achieving the expected result will, in some cases, call for added therapies. Treatment of the root concussion might be required in order to make the tinnitus go away. The best course of action will depend on the nature of your concussion and your TBI. This means an accurate diagnosis is incredibly important in this regard.
Consult us about what the ideal treatment plan might look like for you.
TBI-triggered tinnitus can be managed
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. However, it’s important to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be successfully managed. Schedule a consultation with us today.