What is The Connection Between Concussions And Tinnitus?

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

You Know when you’re viewing an action movie and the hero has a thunderous explosion close by and their ears start ringing? Well, at least some amount of mild brain trauma has likely happened to them.

To be sure, brain injuries aren’t the part that most action movies focus on. But that high-pitched ringing is something called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most often discussed from the perspective of hearing loss, but actually, traumatic brain injuries such as concussions can also cause this particular ringing in the ears.

After all, one of the most common traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And they can occur for a wide variety of reasons (for instance, falls, sports accidents, and motor vehicle crashes). It can be somewhat complicated sorting out how a concussion can trigger tinnitus. But the good news is that even if you suffer a brain injury that causes tinnitus, you can normally treat and manage your condition.

Concussions, exactly what are they?

A concussion is a particular type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). One way to view it is that your brain is protected by fitting tightly in your skull. The brain will start moving around in your skull when something shakes your head violently. But your brain could end up smashing into the inside of your skull because of the little amount of extra space in there.

This causes damage to your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be hit by your brain. And this is what brings about a concussion. When you visualize this, it makes it easy to understand how a concussion is quite literally brain damage. Here are a few symptoms of a concussion:

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

This list isn’t exhaustive, but you get the point. Several weeks to a few months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. Brain injury from one concussion is typically not permanent, most individuals will end up making a total recovery. But repeated concussions can lead to permanent brain damage.

How do concussions cause tinnitus?

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

It’s an interesting question: what is the connection between concussions and tinnitus? Not surprisingly, concussions aren’t the only brain traumas that can cause tinnitus symptoms. That ringing in your ears can be set off by even minor brain injuries. That might happen in a couple of ways:

  • A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI damages the inner ear this type of concussion occurs. Tinnitus and hearing loss, due to inflammation, can be the result of this damage.
  • Damage to your hearing: For members of the military, TBIs and concussions are often caused by distance to an explosion. 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 brought about tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have the same underlying cause.
  • Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the development of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome. When pressure builds up in the inner ear this condition can occur. Eventually, Meniere’s syndrome can result in significant tinnitus and hearing loss.
  • Nerve damage: A concussion may also cause injury to the nerve that is responsible for transmitting the sounds you hear to your brain.
  • Disruption of communication: In some cases, the portion of your brain that manages hearing can become damaged by a concussion. When this occurs, the signals that get transmitted from your ear can’t be precisely dealt with, and tinnitus may happen as a result.
  • Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: The transmission of sound to your brain is aided by three bones in your ear. A major impact (the type that can cause a concussion, for example) can push these bones out of place. This can interrupt your ability to hear and cause tinnitus.

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

How do you manage tinnitus caused by a concussion?

Most often, tinnitus related to a concussion or traumatic brain damage will be temporary. After a concussion, how long can I anticipate my tinnitus to linger? Weeks or months, sadly, could be the time frame. Then again, if your tinnitus has lingered for more than a year, it’s likely to be long lasting. In these situations, the treatment strategy transitions to managing your symptoms over the long term.

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 seems louder). Hearing aids help your tinnitus fade into the background by turning up the volume on everything else.
  • Masking device: This device goes in your ear much like a hearing aid, but it produces particular 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 external sounds.
  • Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to disregard the sound by engaging in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You acknowledge that the noise is present, and then ignore it. This technique requires therapy and practice.

Achieving the expected result will, in some cases, require additional therapies. Management of the underlying concussion might be necessary in order to get rid of the tinnitus. The right course of action will depend on the status of your concussion and your TBI. This means a precise diagnosis is extremely important in this regard.

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

You can manage tinnitus caused by a TBI

Your life can be traumatically impacted by a concussion. When you get a concussion, it’s a bad day! And if you’ve been in a car crash and your ears are ringing, you may wonder why.

Tinnitus could emerge instantly or in the days that follow. However, it’s essential to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be managed effectively. Contact us 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.