ENT Specialists of Alaska

ENT Specialists of Alaska

What is The Link Between Concussions And Tinnitus?

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, at least some amount of mild brain trauma has likely happened to them.

To be certain, brain injuries aren’t the part that most action movies focus on. But that high-pitched ringing is something known as tinnitus. Tinnitus is most often discussed in the context of hearing loss, but it turns out that traumatic brain injuries like concussions can also trigger this particular ringing in the ears.

Concussions, after all, are one of the most common traumatic brain injuries that occur. And they can occur for a wide variety of reasons (car crashes, sporting accidents, and falls, for instance). How something such as a concussion triggers tinnitus can be, well, complex. But the good news is that 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). Think about it this way: your brain is nestled pretty tightly into your skull (your brain is big, 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 because there’s so little additional space in there, your brain may literally crash into the inside of your skull.

This harms your brain! The brain can hit one or more sides of your skull. And when this occurs, you get a concussion. When you visualize this, it makes it easy to understand how a concussion is literally brain damage. Here are a few symptoms of a concussion:

  • Loss of memory and confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • A slow or delayed response to questions
  • Headaches
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurry vision or dizziness

Even though this list makes the point, it’s in no way complete. Symptoms from a concussion can continue anywhere between several weeks and a few months. Brain injury from a single concussion is generally not permanent, most individuals will end up making a complete recovery. But, repeated or multiple concussions are a bigger problem (generally, it’s the best idea to avoid these).

How do concussions cause tinnitus?

Is it actually feasible that a concussion could affect your hearing?

The matter of concussions and tinnitus is an interesting one. Not surprisingly, concussions aren’t the only brain traumas that can cause tinnitus symptoms. That ringing in your ears can be activated by even mild brain injuries. Here are a few ways that might occur:

  • Nerve damage: A concussion might also cause injury to the nerve that is responsible for transferring the sounds you hear to your brain.
  • Damage to your hearing: For members of the armed forces, TBIs and concussions are often caused by proximity to an explosion. Irreversible hearing loss can be caused when the stereocilia in your ears are damaged by the incredibly loud 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. These bones can be pushed out of place by a significant concussive, impactive event. Tinnitus can be triggered by this and it can also interrupt your hearing.
  • A “labyrinthine” concussion: This form of concussion takes place when the inner ear is injured as a result of your TBI. This damage can cause inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
  • Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the onset of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome. When pressure builds up in the inner ear this condition can occur. Substantial hearing loss and tinnitus can become an issue over time as a result of Menier’s disease.
  • Disruption of communication: In some cases, the part of your brain that controls hearing can become harmed by a concussion. As a result, the signals sent from the ear to your brain can’t be correctly digested and tinnitus can be the outcome.

It’s significant to stress that every traumatic brain injury and concussion is a little different. Individualized care and instructions, from us, will be given to every patient. Indeed, if you think you have suffered a traumatic brain injury or a concussion, you should call us for an evaluation as soon as possible.

When you get a concussion and tinnitus is the result, how can it be managed?

Most frequently, tinnitus caused by a concussion or traumatic brain injury will be short-term. After a concussion, how long can I expect my tinnitus to linger? Well, it might last weeks or months. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is long lasting if it persists for more than a year. In these situations, the treatment approach changes to managing your symptoms over the long term.

This can be accomplished by:

  • Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to ignore the sound by engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You disregard the sound after acknowledging it. It will take some therapy, practice, and time though.
  • Masking device: This device is a lot like a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things louder, it creates a specific noise in your ear. Your particular tinnitus symptoms dictate what sound the device will generate helping you disregard the tinnitus sounds and be better able to pay attention to voices and other external sounds.
  • Hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes prominent because the rest of the world takes a back seat (as is the case with non-TBI-caused hearing loss, everything else becomes quieter, so your tinnitus seems louder). Hearing aids help your tinnitus fade into the background by turning up the volume on everything else.

Achieving the expected result will, in some situations, require additional therapies. Treatment of the root concussion may be required in order to make the tinnitus go away. Depending on the status of your concussion, there may be a number of possible courses of action. This means a precise diagnosis is extremely important in this regard.

Learn what the right plan of treatment may be for you by giving us a call.

You can control tinnitus caused by a TBI

Your life can be traumatically impacted by a concussion. When you get a concussion, it’s a bad day! And if you’ve been in a car accident and your ears are ringing, you might wonder why.

It may be days later or immediately after the accident that tinnitus symptoms surface. But you can successfully control tinnitus after a crash and that’s significant to keep in mind. Call us 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.

Questions? Talk To Us.