Concussions & Tinnitus: What’s the Connection?

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

Obviously, action movies don’t emphasize the brain injury part. But that ringing in our hero’s ears signifies a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most frequently talked about from the perspective 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 common traumatic brain injuries that happen. And they can occur for a wide variety of reasons (for example, falls, sporting accidents, and motor vehicle accidents). It can be somewhat complicated sorting out how a concussion can cause tinnitus. Fortunately, treating and managing your conditions is usually very achievable.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is brain trauma of a very specific type. One way to view it is that your brain is protected by fitting tightly in your skull. When anything comes along and shakes the head violently enough, your brain begins moving around inside of your skull. But your brain could end up smashing into the inside of your skull because of the little amount of additional space in there.

This causes damage to your brain! The brain can impact one or more sides of your skull. And this is what results in a concussion. This example makes it quite evident that a concussion is literally damage to the brain. Symptoms of concussions include the following:

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

This list isn’t exhaustive, but you get the point. Several weeks to a few months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. Brain damage from a single concussion is generally not permanent, most individuals will end up making a complete recovery. However, repetitive or multiple concussions are a different story (generally, it’s a good idea to avoid these).

How do concussions cause tinnitus?

Can a concussion interfere with your hearing? Really?

It’s an interesting question: what is the connection between tinnitus and concussions? Because it’s more accurate to say that traumatic brain injuries (even minor ones) can bring about tinnitus, it’s not only concussions. Even minor brain injuries can lead to that ringing in your ears. That may happen in a few ways:

  • Disruption of the Ossicular Chain: There are three bones in your ear that help send sounds to your brain. A major impact (the kind that can cause a concussion, for example) can jostle these bones out of position. This can disrupt your ability to hear and result in tinnitus.
  • Damage to your hearing: For members of the armed forces, TBIs and concussions are often related to distance to an explosion. Permanent hearing loss can be triggered when the stereocilia in your ears are damaged by the tremendously loud shock wave of an explosion. Tinnitus isn’t inevitably caused by a concussion, but they definitely do share some root causes.
  • Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the development of a condition called Meniere’s Syndrome. This is caused by the buildup of pressure inside of the inner ear. Sooner or later, Meniere’s syndrome can result in significant tinnitus and hearing loss.
  • 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: Concussion can, in some instances, harm the parts of the brain that manage hearing. When this happens, the messages that get transmitted from your ear cannot be correctly processed, and tinnitus might occur consequently.
  • A “labyrinthine” concussion: This form of concussion occurs when the inner ear is injured as a result of your TBI. This damage can cause inflammation and cause both hearing loss and tinnitus.

It’s important to emphasize that every traumatic brain injury and concussion is a bit different. Personalized care and instructions, from us, will be given to every patient. You should definitely contact us for an assessment if you believe you may have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

When you suffer from a concussion and tinnitus is the result, how can it be managed?

Most often, tinnitus triggered by a concussion or traumatic brain damage will be temporary. After a concussion, how long can I anticipate my tinnitus to last? Weeks or possibly months, sadly, could be the time period. Then again, if your tinnitus has lingered for more than a year, it’s likely to be irreversible. Over time, in these circumstances, treatment plans to manage your condition will be the optimal strategy.

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 acknowledge that the noise is there, and then disregard it. It will take some therapy, practice, and time though.
  • Masking device: This device is similar to a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things louder, it produces a specific noise in your ear. Your distinct tinnitus symptoms dictate what sound the device will generate helping you ignore the tinnitus sounds and be better able to focus on voices and other outside 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. A hearing aid can help raise the volume of everything else, ensuring that your tinnitus fades into the background.

Obtaining the desired result will, in some cases, require additional therapies. Treatment of the underlying concussion may be required in order to make the tinnitus go away. The best course of action will depend on the nature of your concussion and your TBI. In this regard, a precise diagnosis is key.

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

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 might wonder why.

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

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.

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