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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 start ringing? Well, guess what: that likely means our hero suffered at least a mild traumatic brain injury!

To be certain, brain injuries aren’t the part that most action movies focus on. But that high-pitched ringing is something called tinnitus. Normally, hearing loss is the subject of a tinnitus conversation, but traumatic brain injuries can also cause this condition.

After all, one of the most common traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And they can happen for a wide variety of reasons (car crashes, sports accidents, and falls, for instance). How something such as a concussion triggers tinnitus can be, well, complicated. Luckily, treating and managing your conditions is typically very achievable.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is brain trauma of a very particular type. Think about it this way: your brain is situated fairly tightly inside your skull (your brain is big, and your skull is there to protect it). 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 extra space in there, your brain could literally crash into the inside of your skull.

This hurts your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be hit by your brain. And when this happens, you experience a concussion. When you picture this, it makes it easy to understand how a concussion is literally brain damage. Here are some symptoms of a concussion:

  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of memory and confusion
  • Headaches
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • A slow or delayed response to questions
  • Dizziness and blurred vision
  • Ringing in the ears

Even though this list makes the point, it’s certainly not exhaustive. Several weeks to a few 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, repetitive or multiple concussions are a different story (generally speaking, it’s the best idea to avoid these).

How is tinnitus triggered by a concussion?

Can a concussion interfere with your hearing? Really?

It’s an interesting question: what is the connection between tinnitus and concussions? After all, concussions aren’t the only brain traumas that can cause tinnitus symptoms. Even mild brain injuries can lead to that ringing in your ears. Here are a couple of ways that may happen:

  • Meniere’s Syndrome: The development of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome can be a consequence of a TBI. This is a consequence of an accumulation of pressure inside of the inner ear. Sooner or later, Meniere’s syndrome can result in significant tinnitus and hearing loss.
  • Interruption 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. This can interrupt your ability to hear and result in tinnitus.
  • Nerve damage: A concussion might also cause injury to the nerve that is in charge of transferring the sounds you hear to your brain.
  • A “labyrinthine” concussion: This type of concussion takes place when the inner ear is injured due to your TBI. Tinnitus and hearing loss, as a result of inflammation, can be the consequence of this damage.
  • Damage to your hearing: For members of the armed forces, TBIs and concussions are often related to proximity to an explosion. Irreversible hearing loss can be caused when the stereocilia in your ears are injured by the exceptionally loud shock wave of an explosion. So it isn’t so much that the concussion caused tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have a common root cause.
  • Disruption of communication: In some instances, the portion of your brain that manages hearing can become harmed by a concussion. Consequently, the signals sent from the ear to your brain can’t be correctly digested and tinnitus can be the outcome.

Of course it’s important to keep in mind that no two brain injuries are exactly alike. Every patient will get personalized care and instructions from us. You should definitely contact us for an assessment if you believe you might have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

When you suffer from a concussion and tinnitus is the result, how can it be addressed?

Usually, it will be a temporary situation if tinnitus is the consequence of a concussion. How long can tinnitus linger after a concussion? Weeks or months, unfortunately, could be the time frame. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is permanent if it persists for more than a year. In these situations, the treatment strategy transitions to controlling your symptoms over the long run.

This can be achieved by:

  • Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to disregard the sound by undertaking cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You accept that the noise is there, and then disregard it. It will take some therapy, practice, and time though.
  • Hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes prominent because the rest of the world goes into the background (as is the case with non-TBI-caused hearing loss, everything else gets quieter, so your tinnitus seems louder). Hearing aids help your tinnitus fade into the background by turning up the volume on everything else.
  • Masking device: This device is a lot like a hearing aid, but instead of helping you hear things louder, it creates a particular noise in your ear. This noise is custom tailored to your tinnitus, drowning out the sound so you can focus on voices, or other sounds you really want to hear.

In some cases, additional therapies may be required to achieve the desired result. Clearing up the tinnitus will frequently require treatment to the underlying concussion. The best course of action will depend on the status of your concussion and your TBI. In this regard, an accurate diagnosis is key.

Discover what the right plan of treatment may be for you by getting in touch with us.

TBI-caused tinnitus can be managed

Your life can be traumatically affected by a concussion. It’s never a good day when you get concussed! And if your ears are ringing, you may ask yourself, why are my ears ringing after a car accident?

Tinnitus could emerge instantly or in the following days. However, it’s important to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be managed effectively. Contact us today to make an appointment.

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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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