Concussions & Tinnitus: What’s the Connection?

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 goes all high-pitched-buzzing? Well, at least some amount of mild brain trauma has likely happened to them.

To be certain, brain injuries aren’t the part that most action movies focus on. But that ringing in our hero’s ears represents a condition called tinnitus. Usually, hearing loss is the topic of a tinnitus conversation, but traumatic brain injuries can also cause this condition.

After all, one of the most common traumatic brain injuries is a concussion. And they can occur for numerous reasons (for instance, falls, sporting accidents, and motor vehicle crashes). It can be a bit complicated sorting out how a concussion can lead to tinnitus. But here’s the good news: even if you sustain a brain injury that causes tinnitus, you can normally treat and manage your condition.

Concussions, exactly what are they?

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

This causes damage to your brain! Multiple sides of your skull can be impacted by your brain. And when this occurs, you get a concussion. When you visualize this, it makes it easy to understand how a concussion is quite literally brain damage. Symptoms of concussions include the following:

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

This list is not complete, but you get the idea. A few weeks to a few months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. Brain injury from one concussion is typically not permanent, most people will end up making a total recovery. But recurring concussions can lead to permanent brain damage.

How do concussions cause tinnitus?

Can a concussion mess with your hearing? Really?

It’s an interesting question: what is the connection between tinnitus and concussions? Not surprisingly, concussions won’t be the only brain traumas that can trigger tinnitus symptoms. That ringing in your ears can be activated by even minor brain injuries. Here are a couple of ways that may take place:

  • 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 happen. Eventually, Meniere’s syndrome can result in significant tinnitus and hearing loss.
  • Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three bones in your ear that help transmit sounds to your brain. A major impact (the type that can cause a concussion, for instance) can push these bones out of position. This can disrupt your ability to hear and cause tinnitus.
  • Damage to your hearing: For members of the military, TBIs and concussions are frequently related to distance to an explosion. And explosions are very loud, the noise and the shock wave can damage the stereocilia in your ear, triggering hearing loss and tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t inevitably caused by a concussion, but they definitely do share some root causes.
  • Nerve damage: There’s also a nerve that is in charge of transmitting sounds you hear to your brain, which a concussion can damage.
  • Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some cases, damage the parts of the brain that control hearing. As a result, the signals sent from the ear to your brain can’t be correctly digested and tinnitus can result.
  • A “labyrinthine” concussion: This kind of concussion takes place when the inner ear is damaged due to your TBI. This damage can produce inflammation and cause both hearing loss and tinnitus.

Of course it’s important to keep in mind that no two brain injuries are precisely alike. Personalized care and instructions, from us, will be provided to every patient. Indeed, if you think you have suffered a traumatic brain injury or a concussion, you need to call us for an evaluation as soon as possible.

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

Most frequently, tinnitus caused by a concussion or traumatic brain damage will be short-term. After a concussion, how long can I anticipate my tinnitus to last? Well, it may last weeks or possibly months. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is long lasting if it persists for more than a year. Over time, in these situations, treatment plans to manage your condition will be the optimal strategy.

This can be achieved by:

  • Therapy: In some situations, therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to help patients disregard the noise produced by their tinnitus. You accept that the noise is present, and then ignore it. It will require some therapy, practice, and time though.
  • Masking device: This device is a lot like a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things louder, it produces a distinct noise in your ear. Your specific tinnitus symptoms determine what sound the device will generate helping you disregard the tinnitus sounds and be better able to focus on voices and other external sounds.
  • Hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes pronounced because the rest of the world goes into the background (as is the situation with non-TBI-caused hearing loss, everything else gets quieter, so your tinnitus seems louder). A hearing aid can help turn the volume up on everything else, assuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.

In some situations, further therapies may be required to achieve the desired result. Management of the root concussion might be necessary in order to make the tinnitus go away. The right course of action will depend on the nature of your concussion and your TBI. In this regard, an accurate diagnosis is key.

Find out what the right plan of treatment may be for you by getting in touch with us.

TBI-caused tinnitus can be managed

Your life can be traumatically impacted by a concussion. It’s never a good day when you get concussed! And if your ears are ringing, you might ask yourself, why do I have ringing in my ears after a car accident?

Tinnitus may surface instantly or in the following days. However, it’s important to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be successfully managed. Contact 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.