You Know when you’re viewing an action movie and the hero has a loud explosion nearby and their ears start ringing? Well, at least some level of minor brain trauma has likely happened to them.
Naturally, action movies don’t highlight the brain injury part. But that ringing in our hero’s ears signifies a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most often discussed in the context of hearing loss, but actually, traumatic brain injuries like concussions can also lead to this particular ringing in the ears.
Concussions, after all, are one of the most common traumatic brain injuries that happen. And they can happen for numerous reasons (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 suffer a brain injury that triggers tinnitus, you can normally treat and manage your condition.
What is a concussion?
A concussion is a specific form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). One way to think about it is that your brain is protected by sitting tightly in your skull. When something comes along and shakes the head violently enough, your brain begins moving around inside of your skull. But because there’s so little additional space in there, your brain could literally smash into the inside of your skull.
This harms your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be impacted by your brain. And this is what causes a concussion. This illustration makes it quite evident that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Symptoms of concussions include the following:
- Loss of memory and confusion
- Slurred speech
- Ringing in the ears
- Dizziness and blurred vision
- Vomiting and nausea
- A slow or delayed response to questions
Although this list makes the point, it’s in no way exhaustive. A few weeks to several months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. Brain damage from a single concussion is typically not permanent, most people will end up making a total recovery. But repeated concussions can result in irreversible brain damage.
How do concussions trigger tinnitus?
Is it really possible that a concussion may affect your hearing?
The matter of concussions and tinnitus is an intriguing one. Not surprisingly, concussions are not the only brain traumas that can trigger tinnitus symptoms. Even mild brain injuries can lead to that ringing in your ears. Here are a couple of ways that could happen:
- Damage to your hearing: Enduring an explosion at close range is the cause of concussions and TBIs for lots of members of the military. And explosions are really loud, the noise and the shock wave can damage the stereocilia in your ear, triggering hearing loss and tinnitus. So it’s not so much that the concussion brought about tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have a common root cause.
- A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI injures the inner ear this type of concussion happens. This damage can cause inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Nerve damage: There’s also a nerve that is responsible for transmitting sounds you hear to your brain, which a concussion can damage.
- Disruption of communication: In some cases, the part of your brain that manages hearing can become harmed by a concussion. When this occurs, the signals that get transmitted from your ear can’t be properly processed, and tinnitus might happen as a result.
- Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the onset of a condition called Meniere’s Syndrome. This is a result of the buildup of pressure within the inner ear. Sooner or later, Meniere’s syndrome can result in noticeable tinnitus and hearing loss.
- Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three tiny bones in your ear that help transfer sounds to your brain. A significant impact (the type that can trigger a concussion, for example) can jostle these bones out of place. Tinnitus can be caused by this and it can also interrupt your ability to hear.
Of course it’s important to note that no two brain injuries are exactly the same. Individualized care and instructions, from us, will be given to every patient. Certainly, if you think you have suffered a traumatic brain injury or a concussion, you should call us for an assessment as soon as possible.
When you suffer from a concussion and tinnitus is the consequence, how can it be managed?
Most frequently, tinnitus related to a concussion or traumatic brain injury will be short-term. How long does tinnitus last after a concussion? Well, it might last weeks or months. Then again, if your tinnitus has lasted for more than a year, it’s likely to be long lasting. In these cases, the treatment strategy transitions to managing your symptoms over the long run.
This can be accomplished by:
- Masking device: This device is a lot like a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things more loudly, it produces a specific noise in your ear. Your distinct tinnitus symptoms determine what sound the device will produce helping you disregard the tinnitus sounds and be better able to pay attention to voices and other external sounds.
- Hearing aid: In a similar way to when you have hearing loss not caused by a TBI, tinnitus symptoms seem louder because everything else is quieter. Hearing aids help your tinnitus fade into the background by turning the volume up on everything else.
- Therapy: In some cases, therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to help patients ignore the noise produced by their tinnitus. You disregard the sound after acknowledging it. It will require some therapy, practice, and time though.
Obtaining the expected result will, in some situations, call for additional therapies. Management of the root concussion may be necessary in order to get rid of the tinnitus. The best course of action will depend on the status of your concussion and your TBI. This means an accurate diagnosis is incredibly important in this regard.
Learn what the best plan of treatment might be for you by giving us a call.
TBI-triggered tinnitus can be controlled
A concussion can be a substantial and traumatic event in your life. 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 may emerge instantly 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.