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 blows up near the hero and the sound goes all high-pitched-buzzing? Well, at least some degree of minor brain trauma has likely happened to them.

Naturally, action movies don’t highlight the brain injury part. But that ringing in our hero’s ears signifies a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most often discussed from the perspective 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 (for instance, falls, sporting accidents, and motor vehicle crashes). It can be somewhat complicated sorting out how a concussion can trigger tinnitus. Luckily, treating and managing your conditions is typically very attainable.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is brain trauma of a very distinct kind. One way to view it is that your brain is protected by sitting snuggly in your skull. When anything comes along 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. Symptoms of concussions include the following:

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

This list isn’t complete, but you get the point. Several weeks to several months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. Brain damage from a single concussion is generally not permanent, most people will end up making a total recovery. But recurring concussions can result in irreversible brain damage.

How do concussions cause tinnitus?

Can a concussion interfere with your hearing? Really?

The matter of concussions and tinnitus is an interesting one. After all, concussions won’t be 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 occur in a few ways:

  • Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three tiny bones in your ear that help transfer sounds to your brain. A substantial impact (the kind that can cause a concussion, for example) can jostle these bones out of position. Tinnitus can be triggered by this and it can also disrupt your hearing.
  • Damage to your hearing: Enduring an explosion at close range is the cause of concussions and TBIs for lots of members of the armed forces. Permanent hearing loss can be caused when the stereocilia in your ears are injured by the exceptionally noisy shock wave of an explosion. Tinnitus isn’t always caused by a concussion, but they definitely do share some root causes.
  • Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some cases, damage the portions of the brain that manage hearing. Consequently, the messages sent from the ear to your brain can’t be correctly processed and tinnitus can be the outcome.
  • A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI damages the inner ear this form of concussion happens. This damage can create inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
  • Nerve damage: There’s also a nerve that is in charge of transmitting sounds you hear to your brain, which a concussion can harm.
  • Meniere’s Syndrome: The development of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome can be caused by a TBI. This is caused by the buildup of pressure inside of the inner ear. Substantial hearing loss and tinnitus can become a problem over time as a result of Menier’s disease.

Of course it’s important to keep in mind that no two brain injuries are exactly alike. Personalized care and instructions, from us, will be given to every patient. You should definitely call us for an assessment if you think you might have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

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

Most often, tinnitus caused by a concussion or traumatic brain injury will be short-term. After a concussion, how long can I anticipate my tinnitus to last? Well, it might last weeks or months. Then again, if your tinnitus has lingered for more than a year, it’s likely to be long lasting. In these cases, the treatment plan transitions to controlling your symptoms over the long term.

This can be achieved by:

  • Masking device: This device is similar to a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things more loudly, it creates a particular noise in your ear. Your particular tinnitus symptoms determine what sound the device will produce helping you disregard the tinnitus sounds and be better able to focus on voices and other outside sounds.
  • Therapy: In some situations, therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be utilized to help patients disregard the noise produced by their tinnitus. You acknowledge that the noise is there, and then ignore it. It will take some therapy, practice, and time though.
  • Hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes prominent because the rest of the world takes a back seat (as is the situation with non-TBI-caused hearing loss, everything else becomes quieter, so your tinnitus sounds louder). A hearing aid can help raise the volume of everything else, ensuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.

Obtaining the desired result will, in some cases, require additional therapies. Management of the root concussion may be required in order to make the tinnitus go away. Depending on the nature of your concussion, there could be several possible courses of action. This means a precise 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

Your life can be traumatically impacted by a concussion. When you get concussed, it’s a bad day! And if your ears are ringing, you might ask yourself, why are my ears ringing after a car crash?

Tinnitus may emerge immediately or in the days that follow. But you can effectively 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.