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 explodes near the hero and the sound gets all high-pitched-buzzing? Well, at least some level of mild brain trauma has likely happened to them.

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

Concussions, after all, are one of the most prevalent traumatic brain injuries that occur. And there are a number of reasons concussions can occur (car crashes, sporting accidents, and falls, for example). How something like a concussion causes tinnitus can be, well, complicated. Fortunately, treating and managing your conditions is typically very achievable.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is a specific form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Think about it like this: your brain is nestled fairly tightly into your skull (your brain is big, and your skull is there to protect it). When something comes along and shakes the head violently enough, your brain starts moving around in your skull. But because there’s so little additional space in there, your brain may 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. This illustration makes it quite evident that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Symptoms of concussions include the following:

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

This list isn’t complete, but you get the idea. Several weeks to a few months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. When someone gets one concussion, they will typically make a complete recovery. But recurring concussions can cause permanent brain damage.

How is tinnitus caused by a concussion?

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. Even minor brain injuries can result in that ringing in your ears. Here are a few ways that may happen:

  • Meniere’s Syndrome: The onset of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome can be caused by a TBI. When pressure builds up in the inner ear this condition can occur. Significant hearing loss and tinnitus can become an issue over time as a result of Menier’s disease.
  • Damage to your hearing: Experiencing an explosion at close distance is the cause of concussions and TBIs for many 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. So it isn’t so much that the concussion caused tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have a common underlying cause.
  • Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some cases, damage the portions of the brain that control hearing. As a result, the signals sent from the ear to your brain can’t be precisely processed and tinnitus can be the outcome.
  • Nerve damage: A concussion might also cause injury to the nerve that is in charge of transferring the sounds you hear to your brain.
  • Interruption of the Ossicular Chain: The transmission of sound to your brain is aided by three bones in your ear. These bones can be pushed out of place by a substantial concussive, impactive event. Tinnitus can be caused by this and it can also disrupt your hearing.
  • A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI injures the inner ear this kind of concussion happens. Tinnitus and hearing loss, as a result of inflammation, can be the result of this damage.

Of course it’s significant to keep in mind that no two brain injuries are precisely alike. Personalized care and instructions, from us, will be provided to every patient. You should certainly call us for an evaluation if you believe you may have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

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

Most often, tinnitus caused by a concussion or traumatic brain injury will be temporary. After a concussion, how long can I anticipate my tinnitus to last? Well, it could last weeks or months. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is permanent if it lasts more than a year. In these situations, the treatment plan changes to managing your symptoms over the long run.

This can be achieved by:

  • Therapy: In some situations, therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be utilized to help patients ignore the noise caused by their tinnitus. You disregard the sound after accepting it. This technique takes therapy and practice.
  • Hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes dominant 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, ensuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.
  • Masking device: This device is similar to a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things more loudly, it creates a specific noise in your ear. Your particular tinnitus symptoms dictate what sound the device will produce helping you disregard the tinnitus sounds and be better able to pay attention to voices and other outside sounds.

Obtaining the expected result will, in some situations, call for additional therapies. Clearing up the tinnitus will often call for treatment to the root concussion. The right course of action will depend on the status of your concussion and your TBI. In this regard, an accurate diagnosis is key.

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

You can control tinnitus caused by a TBI

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

It may be days later or immediately after the crash that tinnitus symptoms emerge. But you can successfully manage tinnitus after a crash and that’s significant to keep in mind. Schedule a consultation with us right away.

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.