What is The Connection Between Concussions And Tinnitus?

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

You know that scene in your favorite action movie where something explodes near the hero and the sound gets all high-pitched-buzzing? Well, at least some degree of mild brain trauma has likely happened to them.

Naturally, action movies don’t highlight the brain injury part. 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 trigger this condition.

Concussions, after all, are one of the most prevalent traumatic brain injuries that happen. And there are quite a few reasons concussions can occur (car crashes, sports accidents, and falls, for instance). How something such as a concussion triggers tinnitus can be, well, complex. Luckily, treating and managing your conditions is typically very achievable.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a particular form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Think about it like this: your brain is nestled fairly tightly into your skull (your brain is big, and your skull is there to protect it). When something occurs and shakes the head violently enough, your brain begins moving around in your skull. But because there’s so little extra space in there, your brain could literally crash into the inside of your skull.

This causes harm to your brain! The brain can hit one or more sides of your skull. And when this happens, you get a concussion. This illustration makes it quite evident that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Here are some symptoms of a concussion:

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

This list isn’t complete, but you get the idea. Symptoms from a concussion can continue anywhere between several weeks and a few months. Brain injury from a single concussion is typically not permanent, most people will end up making a total recovery. But, repetitive or multiple concussions are a bigger problem (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 concussions and tinnitus? Because it’s more correct to say that traumatic brain injuries (even minor ones) can result in tinnitus, it’s not only concussions. That ringing in your ears can be triggered by even mild brain injuries. Here are a few ways that could happen:

  • Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three tiny bones in your ear that help send sounds to your brain. These bones can be knocked out of place by a substantial concussive, impactive event. Tinnitus can be triggered by this and it can also interrupt your ability to hear.
  • Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the development of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome. This is a consequence of the buildup of pressure within the inner ear. Sooner or later, Meniere’s syndrome can result in noticeable tinnitus and hearing loss.
  • Disruption of communication: In some cases, the portion of your brain that manages hearing can become harmed by a concussion. As a result, the signals sent from the ear to your brain can’t be properly digested and tinnitus can result.
  • A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI injures the inner ear this form of concussion happens. Tinnitus and hearing loss, as a result of inflammation, can be the result of this damage.
  • Damage to your hearing: For members of the armed forces, TBIs and concussions are often a result of proximity to an explosion. And explosions are really loud, the noise and the shock wave can damage the stereocilia in your ear, triggering hearing loss and tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t necessarily caused by a concussion, but they definitely do share some common causes.
  • Nerve damage: A concussion might also trigger injury to the nerve that is responsible for transmitting the sounds you hear to your brain.

It’s significant to emphasize that every traumatic brain injury and concussion is a bit different. Personalized 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 need to call us for an assessment as soon as possible.

How do you manage tinnitus caused by a concussion?

Typically, it will be a temporary challenge if tinnitus is the consequence of a concussion. How long can tinnitus linger after a concussion? Weeks or possibly months, sadly, could be the time frame. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is permanent if it lasts more than a year. In these situations, the treatment approach changes to managing your symptoms over the long run.

This can be achieved by:

  • 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. A hearing aid can help raise the volume of everything else, assuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.
  • Masking device: This device goes inside your ear a lot like a hearing aid, but it creates specific noises instead of amplifying things. Your particular tinnitus symptoms determine what sound the device will generate helping you ignore the tinnitus sounds and be better able to pay attention to voices and other outside sounds.
  • Therapy: In some cases, therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to help patients ignore the noise produced by their tinnitus. You ignore the sound after acknowledging it. This technique requires therapy and practice.

In some situations, further therapies may be necessary to obtain the expected result. Management of the root concussion may be necessary in order to make the tinnitus go away. Depending on the status of your concussion, there could be several possible courses of action. In this regard, a precise diagnosis is key.

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

TBI-caused tinnitus can be managed

A concussion can be a substantial and traumatic event in your life. When you get concussed, it’s a bad day! And if you’ve been in a car crash and your ears are ringing, you may wonder why.

It could be days later or immediately after the accident that tinnitus symptoms emerge. However, it’s essential to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be successfully managed. Give us a call today to schedule 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.