Concussions & Tinnitus: What’s the Link?

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

You know that scene in your favorite action movie where something explodes next to the hero and the sound goes all high-pitched-buzzing? Well, guess what: that most likely means our hero sustained at least a mild traumatic brain injury!

To be certain, brain injuries aren’t the bit that most action movies focus on. But that high-pitched ringing is something called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most often talked about from the perspective of hearing loss, but actually, traumatic brain injuries such as concussions can also cause this particular ringing in the ears.

Concussions, after all, are one of the most common traumatic brain injuries that occur. And there are a number of reasons concussions can happen (for instance, falls, sporting accidents, and motor vehicle accidents). It can be a bit complex sorting out how a concussion can trigger tinnitus. Luckily, treating and managing your conditions is usually very achievable.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is brain trauma of a very distinct kind. Think about it like this: your brain is nestled pretty tightly into your skull (your brain is large, and your skull is there to protect it). When something occurs and shakes the head violently enough, your brain begins moving around inside of your skull. But your brain could wind up smashing into the inside of your skull because of the little amount of additional space in there.

This causes damage to your brain! The brain can hit one or more sides of your skull. And this is what causes a concussion. When you picture this, it makes it simple to understand how a concussion is quite literally brain damage. Symptoms of concussions include the following:

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

Even though this list makes the point, it’s in no way exhaustive. Several weeks to several months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. Brain injury from a single concussion is generally not permanent, most people will end up making a complete recovery. But repeated concussions can result in irreversible brain damage.

How is tinnitus caused by a concussion?

Can a concussion mess with your hearing? Really?

It’s an intriguing question: what is the link between tinnitus and concussions? Because it’s more correct to say that traumatic brain injuries (even minor ones) can bring about tinnitus, it’s not only concussions. That ringing in your ears can be set off by even minor brain injuries. Here are a couple of ways that could take place:

  • Damage to your hearing: Experiencing an explosion at close range is the cause of concussions and TBIs for many members of the armed forces. And explosions are very loud, the sound and the shock wave can harm the stereocilia in your ear, causing hearing loss and tinnitus. So it’s not so much that the concussion caused tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have the same underlying cause.
  • Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three bones in your ear that help transmit sounds to your brain. These bones can be knocked out of place by a substantial concussive, impactive event. This can disrupt your ability to hear and cause tinnitus.
  • Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the onset of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome. This is a result of the buildup of pressure within the inner ear. Substantial hearing loss and tinnitus can become a problem over time as a result of Menier’s disease.
  • A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI damages the inner ear this kind of concussion happens. This damage can cause inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
  • Nerve damage: A concussion may also cause damage to the nerve that is responsible for transferring the sounds you hear to your brain.
  • Disruption of communication: In some cases, the portion of your brain that controls hearing can become damaged by a concussion. When this happens, the signals that get sent from your ear can’t be precisely processed, and tinnitus may happen consequently.

Of course it’s significant to note that no two brain injuries are exactly alike. Personalized care and instructions, from us, will be provided to every patient. You should certainly contact us for an evaluation if you think you might have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

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

Most often, tinnitus triggered by a concussion or traumatic brain injury will be temporary. How long does tinnitus last after a concussion? Well, it may last weeks or months. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is long lasting if it persists for more than a year. Over time, in these circumstances, treatment plans to manage your condition will be the optimal plan.

Here are some ways to achieve this:

  • Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to disregard the sound by engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You disregard the sound after accepting it. It will require some therapy, practice, and time though.
  • 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 the volume up on everything else.
  • Masking device: This device goes in your ear much like a hearing aid, but it creates particular noises instead of making things louder. Your particular tinnitus symptoms determine what sound the device will produce helping you ignore the tinnitus sounds and be better able to pay attention to voices and other outside sounds.

Obtaining the expected result will, in some cases, call for additional therapies. Management of the underlying concussion may be required in order to make the tinnitus go away. The correct course of action will depend on the status of your concussion and your TBI. In this regard, an accurate diagnosis is key.

Consult us about what the right treatment plan might look like for you.

You can control tinnitus caused by a TBI

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

Tinnitus could emerge immediately 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.

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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