Concussions & Tinnitus: What’s the Connection?

Woman with hands on her head suffering from concussion related tinnitus.

You Know when you’re watching an action movie and the hero has a thunderous explosion close by and their ears begin to ring? Well, at least some level of mild brain trauma has likely happened to them.

Obviously, action movies don’t emphasize the brain injury part. But that ringing in our hero’s ears signifies a condition called tinnitus. Normally, hearing loss is the subject 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 they can happen for many reasons (car crashes, sporting accidents, and falls, for example). It can be a bit complicated sorting out how a concussion can trigger tinnitus. Fortunately, treating and managing your conditions is usually very achievable.

Concussions, exactly what are they?

A concussion is a specific kind of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Think about it like this: your brain is nestled fairly tightly inside your skull (your brain is large, and your skull is there to protect it). When anything comes along and shakes the head violently enough, your brain begins moving around in your skull. But your brain could end up smashing into the inside of your skull because of the little amount of extra space in there.

This harms your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be impacted by your brain. And when this occurs, you experience 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
  • Ringing in the ears
  • A slow or delayed response to questions
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Headaches
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurry vision or dizziness

Even though this list makes the point, it’s in no way exhaustive. Symptoms from a concussion can persist anywhere between a few weeks and a few months. Brain damage from one concussion is generally not permanent, most people will end up making a complete recovery. But recurring concussions can cause irreversible brain damage.

How do concussions cause tinnitus?

Can a concussion mess with your hearing? Really?

The question of concussions and tinnitus is an intriguing one. After all, concussions aren’t the only brain traumas that can trigger tinnitus symptoms. Even minor brain injuries can result in that ringing in your ears. That might happen in a couple of ways:

  • Damage to your hearing: Experiencing an explosion at close distance is the cause of concussions and TBIs for many members of the armed forces. Permanent hearing loss can be caused when the stereocilia in your ears are damaged 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 a common root cause.
  • A “labyrinthine” concussion: This type of concussion takes place when the inner ear is damaged as a result of your TBI. This damage can produce inflammation and cause both hearing loss and tinnitus.
  • Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three bones in your ear that help transmit sounds to your brain. These bones can be pushed out of place by a significant concussive, impactive event. Tinnitus can be caused by this and it can also interrupt your ability to hear.
  • Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the onset of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome. When pressure accumulates in the inner ear this condition can happen. Eventually, Meniere’s syndrome can lead to significant tinnitus and hearing loss.
  • Nerve damage: There’s also a nerve that is in charge of transmitting sounds you hear to your brain, which a concussion can damage.
  • Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some situations, damage the portions of the brain that manage hearing. When this occurs, the messages that get sent from your ear can’t be correctly dealt with, and tinnitus may happen consequently.

It’s significant to emphasize that every traumatic brain injury and concussion is a little different. Personalized care and instructions, from us, will be given to every patient. Indeed, 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 consequence, how can it be managed?

Most often, tinnitus triggered by a concussion or traumatic brain damage will be short-term. After a concussion, how long can I anticipate my tinnitus to linger? Well, it may last weeks or months. Then again, if your tinnitus has lingered for more than a year, it’s likely to be irreversible. Over time, in these situations, treatment plans to manage your condition will be the best strategy.

This can be achieved by:

  • Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to ignore the sound by engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You ignore the sound after accepting it. It will require some therapy, practice, and time though.
  • Masking device: This device goes in your ear much like a hearing aid, but it produces specific noises instead of making things louder. 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 external sounds.
  • Hearing aid: In a similar way to when you’re dealing with 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.

In some situations, further therapies may be necessary to accomplish the desired result. Treatment of the underlying concussion may be required in order to get rid of the tinnitus. Depending on the nature of your concussion, there may be several possible courses of action. In this regard, a precise diagnosis is key.

Talk to us about what the ideal treatment plan may look like for you.

You can manage 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 may wonder why.

Tinnitus may emerge instantly or in the days that follow. But you can effectively manage tinnitus after a crash and that’s significant to keep in mind. Give us a call today to make an appointment.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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