Concussions & Tinnitus: What’s the Link?

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 loud explosion close by and their ears begin to ring? Well, guess what: that likely means our hero sustained at least a mild traumatic brain injury!

To be sure, brain injuries aren’t the part that most action movies linger on. But that ringing in our hero’s ears represents a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most frequently talked about in the context of hearing loss, but it turns out that traumatic brain injuries such as concussions can also trigger this particular ringing in the ears.

After all, one of the most prevalent traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And there are quite a few reasons concussions can occur (car crashes, sports accidents, and falls, for example). It can be somewhat complicated sorting out how a concussion can trigger tinnitus. Luckily, treating and managing your conditions is usually very attainable.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is brain trauma of a very distinct type. One way to think about it is that your brain is protected by fitting tightly in your skull. When something occurs and shakes the head violently enough, your brain begins moving around in your skull. But your brain could end up crashing into the inside of your skull because of the small amount of additional space in there.

This causes harm to your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be impacted by your brain. And this is what brings about a concussion. When you picture this, it makes it simple to see how a concussion is literally brain damage. Here are a few symptoms of a concussion:

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

Although this list makes the point, it’s certainly not complete. A few weeks to a few months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. Brain injury from a single concussion is typically not permanent, most people will end up making a full recovery. But recurring concussions can lead to irreversible brain damage.

How is tinnitus caused by a concussion?

Is it really feasible that a concussion may impact your hearing?

The matter of concussions and tinnitus is an interesting one. Not surprisingly, concussions are not the only brain traumas that can trigger tinnitus symptoms. That ringing in your ears can be set off by even mild brain injuries. That might happen in a few ways:

  • A “labyrinthine” concussion: This form of concussion occurs when the inner ear is injured due to your TBI. This damage can produce inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
  • Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three tiny bones in your ear that help transfer sounds to your brain. A significant impact (the type that can trigger a concussion, for instance) can push these bones out of place. This can disrupt your ability to hear and cause tinnitus.
  • Disruption of communication: In some instances, the portion of your brain that manages hearing can become damaged by a concussion. When this happens, the messages that get sent from your ear can’t be correctly processed, and tinnitus might occur consequently.
  • Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the development of a condition called Meniere’s Syndrome. When pressure accumulates in the inner ear this condition can happen. Sooner or later, Meniere’s syndrome can lead to noticeable tinnitus and hearing loss.
  • Damage to your hearing: Experiencing an explosion at close distance is the cause of concussions and TBIs for many members of the armed forces. And explosions are really loud, the noise and the shock wave can damage the stereocilia in your ear, triggering hearing loss and tinnitus. So it isn’t so much that the concussion caused tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have a common root cause.
  • Nerve damage: A concussion might also trigger injury to the nerve that is in charge of transmitting the sounds you hear to your brain.

It’s important to emphasize that every traumatic brain injury and concussion is a little different. Personalized care and instructions, from us, will be provided to every patient. You should definitely contact us for an evaluation if you believe you might have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

How do you manage tinnitus caused by a concussion?

Usually, it will be a temporary situation if tinnitus is the consequence of a concussion. After a concussion, how long can I expect my tinnitus to last? Well, it might last weeks or possibly months. However, if your tinnitus has lingered for more than a year, it’s likely to be irreversible. Over time, in these circumstances, treatment plans to manage your condition will be the optimal plan.

Here are some ways to achieve this:

  • 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 becomes quieter, so your tinnitus sounds louder). Hearing aids help your tinnitus fade into the background by turning the volume up on everything else.
  • Masking device: This device is a lot like a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things louder, it produces a particular noise in your ear. This noise is custom tailored to your tinnitus, drowning out the sound so you can pay attention to voices, or other sounds you really want to hear.
  • Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to disregard the sound by undertaking cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You accept that the noise is present, and then ignore it. It will require some therapy, practice, and time though.

In some cases, additional therapies might be necessary to accomplish the desired result. Getting rid of the tinnitus will often require treatment to the root concussion. The right course of action will depend on the status of your concussion and your TBI. This means an accurate diagnosis is incredibly important in this regard.

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

You can manage tinnitus caused by a TBI

A concussion can be a significant and traumatic situation in your life. When you get a concussion, it’s a bad day! And if you have ringing in your ears, you may ask yourself, why do I have ringing in my ears after a car crash?

It could be days later or immediately after the crash that tinnitus symptoms surface. However, it’s essential 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.


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