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 likely means our hero sustained at least a mild traumatic brain injury!

Obviously, action movies don’t highlight the brain injury part. But that high-pitched ringing is something known as tinnitus. Normally, hearing loss is the subject of a tinnitus conversation, but traumatic brain injuries can also trigger this condition.

Concussions, after all, are one of the more prevalent traumatic brain injuries that occur. And there are quite a few reasons concussions can occur (car crashes, sports accidents, and falls, for instance). How something like a concussion triggers tinnitus can be, well, complex. But the good news is that even if you suffer a brain injury that causes tinnitus, you can usually treat and manage your condition.

Concussions, exactly what are they?

A concussion is a particular form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). One way to think about it is that your brain is protected by fitting snuggly in your skull. The brain will start to move around inside your skull when something shakes your head violently. But your brain could end up smashing into the inside of your skull because of the small amount of additional space in there.

This causes harm to your brain! The brain can hit one or more sides of your skull. And when this happens, you experience a concussion. This illustration makes it quite clear that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Symptoms of concussions include the following:

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

This list is not complete, but you get the point. Symptoms from a concussion can persist anywhere between a few weeks and several months. Brain injury from one concussion is generally not permanent, most people will end up making a total recovery. But recurring concussions can lead to irreversible brain damage.

How is tinnitus triggered by a concussion?

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

It’s an interesting question: what is the connection between tinnitus and concussions? 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 could take place:

  • Nerve damage: A concussion might also trigger damage to the nerve that is in charge of transferring the sounds you hear to your brain.
  • Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some situations, damage the parts of the brain that control hearing. Consequently, the signals sent from the ear to your brain can’t be properly processed and tinnitus can result.
  • Damage to your hearing: Enduring an explosion at close range 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 isn’t so much that the concussion caused tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have the same underlying cause.
  • A “labyrinthine” concussion: This form of concussion takes place when the inner ear is injured as a result of your TBI. Tinnitus and hearing loss, due to inflammation, can be the result of this damage.
  • Meniere’s Syndrome: The development of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome can be a consequence of a TBI. This is a result of the buildup of pressure within the inner ear. Sooner or later, Meniere’s syndrome can lead to significant tinnitus and hearing loss.
  • Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three tiny bones in your ear that help send sounds to your brain. A significant impact (the type that can trigger a concussion, for instance) can jostle these bones out of place. Tinnitus can be caused by this and it can also disrupt your hearing.

It’s important to emphasize that every traumatic brain injury and concussion is a little different. Individualized care and instructions, from us, will be provided to every patient. You should certainly give us a call for an assessment if you believe you may have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

How do you manage tinnitus caused by a concussion?

Usually, it will be a temporary challenge if tinnitus is the consequence of a concussion. After a concussion, how long can I anticipate my tinnitus to last? Well, it could last weeks or months. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is long lasting if it lasts more than a year. In these circumstances, the treatment strategy changes to controlling your symptoms over the long run.

This can be achieved by:

  • Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to overlook the sound by undertaking cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You ignore the sound after acknowledging it. This technique takes therapy and practice.
  • Hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes pronounced 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 sounds louder). A hearing aid can help turn the volume up on everything else, assuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.
  • Masking device: This device is a lot like a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things louder, it creates a distinct 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.

Obtaining the desired result will, in some situations, require additional therapies. Treatment of the underlying concussion may be necessary in order to make the tinnitus go away. Depending on the nature of your concussion, there could be a number of possible courses of action. This means an accurate diagnosis is extremely important in this regard.

Find out what the best 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. 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 might wonder why.

It may be days later or immediately after the crash that tinnitus symptoms emerge. However, it’s important to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be managed effectively. 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.