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

Obviously, action movies don’t highlight the brain injury part. But that ringing in our hero’s ears signifies a condition called tinnitus. Normally, hearing loss is the subject of a tinnitus conversation, but traumatic brain injuries can also trigger this condition.

Concussions, after all, are one of the more prevalent traumatic brain injuries that happen. And there are a number of reasons concussions can occur (car crashes, sports accidents, and falls, for example). How something such as a concussion causes tinnitus can be, well, complicated. Luckily, treating and managing your conditions is usually very achievable.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is brain trauma of a very particular type. 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 occurs and shakes the head violently enough, your brain begins moving around inside of your skull. 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 impact one or more sides of your skull. And this is what brings about a concussion. This illustration makes it quite evident that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Here are a few symptoms of a concussion:

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

This list is not complete, but you get the idea. Symptoms from a concussion can continue anywhere between several weeks and several months. When somebody gets a single concussion, they will typically make a complete recovery. But, repetitive or multiple concussions are a bigger problem (generally speaking, it’s the best idea to avoid these).

How is tinnitus caused by a concussion?

Can a concussion mess with your hearing? Really?

The question of concussions and tinnitus is an intriguing one. Because it’s more correct to say that traumatic brain injuries (even minor ones) can result in tinnitus, It isn’t only concussions. Even mild brain injuries can result in that ringing in your ears. That might happen in a few ways:

  • Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: The transmission of sound to your brain is aided by three tiny bones in your ear. These bones can be pushed out of place by a substantial concussive, impactive event. This can interrupt your ability to hear and result in tinnitus.
  • Nerve damage: A concussion may also trigger injury to the nerve that is in charge of transmitting the sounds you hear to your brain.
  • Disruption of communication: In some cases, the portion of your brain that manages hearing can become harmed by a concussion. Consequently, the messages sent from the ear to your brain can’t be properly digested and tinnitus can result.
  • Damage to your hearing: Experiencing an explosion at close distance is the cause of concussions and TBIs for lots of members of the armed forces. Permanent hearing loss can be triggered when the stereocilia in your ears are damaged by the incredibly loud shock wave of an explosion. Tinnitus isn’t inevitably caused by a concussion, but they definitely do share some common causes.
  • A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI injures the inner ear this kind of concussion happens. This damage can produce inflammation and lead to both hearing loss and tinnitus.
  • Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the onset of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome. This is a result of the buildup of pressure inside of the inner ear. Sooner or later, Meniere’s syndrome can lead to noticeable tinnitus and hearing loss.

It’s important to stress that every traumatic brain injury and concussion is a little different. Every patient will get individualized care and instructions from us. You should certainly call us for an evaluation if you believe you might have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

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

Most often, tinnitus related to a concussion or traumatic brain injury will be short-term. How long can tinnitus linger after a concussion? Well, it could last weeks or possibly months. But, it’s likely that your tinnitus is long lasting if it persists for more than a year. In these situations, the treatment strategy changes to managing your symptoms over the long term.

This can be accomplished by:

  • Masking device: This device goes inside your ear much like a hearing aid, but it produces specific noises instead of making things louder. Your specific 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 external sounds.
  • Hearing aid: In a similar way to when you have hearing loss not caused by a TBI, tinnitus symptoms seem louder because everything else is quieter. Hearing aids help your tinnitus go into the background by turning the volume up on everything else.
  • Therapy: Sometimes, patients can learn to disregard the sound by undertaking cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). You accept that the noise is there, and then disregard it. It will take some therapy, practice, and time though.

Achieving the desired result will, in some situations, call for additional therapies. Clearing up the tinnitus will often require treatment to the root concussion. Depending on the nature of your concussion, there may be several possible courses of action. In this regard, a precise diagnosis is key.

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

You can manage tinnitus caused by a TBI

A concussion can be a significant and traumatic event 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 may wonder why.

It may be days later or instantly after the crash 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 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.