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 thunderous explosion close by and their ears start ringing? Well, at least some degree of minor brain trauma has likely happened to them.

Obviously, action movies don’t emphasize the brain injury part. But that ringing in our hero’s ears represents a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most often talked about in the context of hearing loss, but it turns out that traumatic brain injuries such as concussions can also lead to this particular ringing in the ears.

After all, one of the most prevalent traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And there are a number of reasons concussions can occur (car crashes, sports accidents, and falls, for instance). It can be a bit complicated sorting out how a concussion can cause tinnitus. But here’s the good news: even if you sustain a brain injury that causes tinnitus, you can usually treat and manage your condition.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is brain trauma of a very specific type. One way to view it is that your brain is protected by fitting tightly in your skull. The brain will begin to move around in your skull when something shakes your head violently. But because there’s so little additional space in there, your brain may literally smash into the inside of your skull.

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

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

Even though this list makes the point, it’s in no way complete. Symptoms from a concussion can last 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 complete recovery. But, repetitive or multiple concussions are a different story (generally speaking, it’s a good idea to avoid these).

How is tinnitus triggered by a concussion?

Is it actually feasible that a concussion could impact your hearing?

The question of concussions and tinnitus is an interesting one. After all, concussions won’t be the only brain traumas that can cause tinnitus symptoms. That ringing in your ears can be set off by even minor brain injuries. That may occur in a few ways:

  • Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some situations, damage the portions of the brain that manage hearing. Consequently, the signals sent from the ear to your brain can’t be correctly processed and tinnitus can be the outcome.
  • Meniere’s Syndrome: The onset of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome can be a consequence of a TBI. When pressure accumulates in the inner ear this condition can occur. Sooner or later, Meniere’s syndrome can lead to significant tinnitus and hearing loss.
  • Nerve damage: A concussion might also trigger damage to the nerve that is in charge of transferring the sounds you hear to your brain.
  • A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI injures the inner ear this kind of concussion occurs. This damage can produce inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
  • Damage to your hearing: Experiencing an explosion at close distance is the cause of concussions and TBIs for many members of the military. Irreversible hearing loss can be triggered when the stereocilia in your ears are injured by the incredibly loud shock wave of an explosion. Tinnitus isn’t necessarily caused by a concussion, but they definitely do share some common causes.
  • Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: The transmission of sound to your brain is assisted by three bones in your ear. A major impact (the kind that can trigger a concussion, for instance) can jostle these bones out of place. This can disrupt your ability to hear and result in tinnitus.

Of course it’s significant to note that no two brain injuries are exactly the same. Every patient will receive personalized care and instructions from us. Indeed, if you think you have experienced a traumatic brain injury or a concussion, you need to call us for an assessment as soon as possible.

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

Most frequently, tinnitus triggered by a concussion or traumatic brain damage will be temporary. After a concussion, how long can I expect my tinnitus to linger? Well, it could last weeks or months. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is permanent if it persists for more than a year. In these situations, the treatment plan changes to managing your symptoms over the long term.

Here are some ways to accomplish this:

  • Masking device: This device goes in your ear a lot like a hearing aid, but it generates specific noises instead of making things louder. This noise is customized to your tinnitus, overpowering the sound so you can focus on voices, or other sounds you actually want to hear.
  • Hearing aid: In a similar way to when you’re dealing with hearing loss not caused by a TBI, tinnitus symptoms seem louder because everything else is quieter. A hearing aid can help turn the volume up on everything else, assuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.
  • Therapy: In some cases, therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to help patients ignore the noise caused by their tinnitus. You disregard the sound after accepting it. This technique requires therapy and practice.

In some situations, further therapies may be necessary to obtain the expected result. Clearing up the tinnitus will frequently require treatment to the root concussion. The right course of action will depend on the nature of your concussion and your TBI. In this regard, a precise diagnosis is key.

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

TBI-triggered tinnitus can be controlled

A concussion can be a substantial and traumatic situation 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 might wonder why.

It could be days later or instantly after the accident that tinnitus symptoms surface. However, it’s essential to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be successfully managed. 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.