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, guess what: that probably means our hero sustained at least a minor traumatic brain injury!

Naturally, action movies don’t emphasize the brain injury part. But that high-pitched ringing is something known as tinnitus. Tinnitus is most often talked about from the perspective of hearing loss, but actually, traumatic brain injuries such as concussions can also lead to this particular ringing in the ears.

Concussions, after all, are one of the most common traumatic brain injuries that happen. And they can happen for many reasons (car crashes, sports accidents, and falls, for example). It can be a bit complicated sorting out how a concussion can trigger tinnitus. Luckily, treating and managing your conditions is typically very achievable.

Concussions, exactly what are they?

A concussion is brain trauma of a very specific type. Think about it this way: your brain is situated fairly tightly inside 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 starts moving around inside of your skull. But because there’s so little extra space in there, your brain may literally crash into the inside of your skull.

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 see how a concussion is quite literally brain damage. Here are some symptoms of a concussion:

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

This list isn’t complete, but you get the idea. Symptoms from a concussion can persist anywhere between a few weeks and several months. Brain injury from one concussion is typically not permanent, most people will end up making a complete recovery. However, repeated or multiple concussions are a bigger problem (generally, it’s the best idea to avoid these).

How do concussions trigger tinnitus?

Can a concussion interfere 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 mild ones) can bring about tinnitus, It isn’t just concussions. Even mild brain injuries can result in that ringing in your ears. That may occur in a few ways:

  • Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the onset of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome. This is a consequence of an accumulation of pressure within the inner ear. Eventually, Meniere’s syndrome can result in noticeable tinnitus and hearing loss.
  • A “labyrinthine” concussion: This kind of concussion takes place when the inner ear is injured due to your TBI. This damage can produce inflammation and cause both hearing loss and tinnitus.
  • Nerve damage: A concussion may also trigger damage to the nerve that is in charge of transmitting the sounds you hear to your brain.
  • Damage to your hearing: Enduring an explosion at close range is the cause of concussions and TBIs for many members of the armed forces. Irreversible hearing loss can be triggered when the stereocilia in your ears are damaged by the tremendously noisy shock wave of an explosion. Tinnitus isn’t inevitably caused by a concussion, but they definitely do share some root causes.
  • Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three tiny bones in your ear that help send sounds to your brain. These bones can be knocked out of place by a significant concussive, impactive event. This can interrupt your ability to hear and result in tinnitus.
  • Disruption of communication: Concussion can, in some cases, damage the portions of the brain that manage hearing. As a result, the signals sent from the ear to your brain can’t be properly processed and tinnitus can be the outcome.

It’s significant to stress that every traumatic brain injury and concussion is a bit different. Every patient will get personalized care and instructions from us. You should definitely contact us for an evaluation if you think you may have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

How do you treat tinnitus caused by a concussion?

Most often, tinnitus triggered by a concussion or traumatic brain damage will be short-term. 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 lasts more than a year. In these circumstances, the treatment approach transitions to controlling your symptoms over the long term.

Here are some ways to achieve this:

  • Hearing aid: Sometimes, tinnitus becomes pronounced because the rest of the world takes a back seat (as is the situation with non-TBI-caused hearing loss, everything else becomes quieter, so your tinnitus sounds louder). A hearing aid can help raise the volume of everything else, ensuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.
  • Therapy: In some cases, therapy, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be utilized to help patients disregard the noise caused by their tinnitus. You ignore the sound after accepting it. It will require some therapy, practice, and time though.
  • Masking device: This device goes in your ear much like a hearing aid, but it produces particular noises instead of amplifying things. This noise is custom tailored to your tinnitus, overpowering the sound so you can pay attention to voices, or other sounds you actually want to hear.

In some situations, further therapies may be necessary to achieve the desired result. Management of the root concussion may be necessary in order to get rid of the tinnitus. Depending on the nature of your concussion, there may be a number of possible courses of action. In this regard, a precise diagnosis is key.

Find out what the best plan of treatment may be for you by giving us a call.

You can manage tinnitus caused by a TBI

A concussion can be a substantial and traumatic situation in your life. It’s never a good day when you get a concussion! And if your ears are ringing, you might ask yourself, why do I have ringing in my ears after a car crash?

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