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 next to the hero and the sound gets 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 represents a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is most frequently discussed in the context of hearing loss, but it turns out that traumatic brain injuries such as concussions can also cause this particular ringing in the ears.

Concussions, after all, are one of the most common traumatic brain injuries that happen. And there are lots of reasons concussions can happen (car accidents, sporting accidents, and falls, for instance). How something such as a concussion causes tinnitus can be, well, complicated. But here’s the good news: even if you suffer a brain injury that causes tinnitus, you can usually treat and manage your condition.

Concussions, exactly what are they?

A concussion is a specific type of traumatic brain injury (TBI). One way to think about it is that your brain is protected by sitting tightly in your skull. The brain will begin to move around in your skull when something shakes your head violently. But because there’s so little additional space in there, your brain could literally crash into the inside of your skull.

This causes damage to your brain! The brain can impact one or more sides of your skull. And when this occurs, you get a concussion. When you picture this, it makes it simple to understand how a concussion is quite literally brain damage. Symptoms of concussions include the following:

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

Even though this list makes the point, it’s by no means complete. A few weeks to a few months is the normal duration of concussion symptoms. When somebody gets a single concussion, they will normally make a complete recovery. But recurring concussions can cause permanent brain damage.

How do concussions cause tinnitus?

Can a concussion interfere with your hearing? Really?

The question of concussions and tinnitus is an interesting one. Because it’s more accurate to say that traumatic brain injuries (even mild ones) can lead to tinnitus, it’s not only concussions. Even mild brain injuries can result in that ringing in your ears. That might occur in a few ways:

  • Damage to your hearing: For members of the military, TBIs and concussions are often a result of distance to an explosion. And explosions are very loud, the sound and the shock wave can damage the stereocilia in your ear, causing hearing loss and tinnitus. So it isn’t so much that the concussion caused tinnitus, it’s that the tinnitus and concussion have the same root cause.
  • Nerve damage: There’s also a nerve that is in charge of transmitting sounds you hear to your brain, which a concussion can harm.
  • A “labyrinthine” concussion: When your TBI injures the inner ear this type of concussion happens. Tinnitus and hearing loss, as a result of inflammation, can be the result of this damage.
  • Disruption of communication: In some cases, the part of your brain that manages hearing can become damaged by a concussion. As a result, the signals sent from the ear to your brain can’t be precisely processed and tinnitus can be the outcome.
  • Meniere’s Syndrome: A TBI can cause the development of a condition known as Meniere’s Syndrome. When pressure builds up in the inner ear this condition can occur. Sooner or later, 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 transfer sounds to your brain. A major impact (the kind that can cause a concussion, for instance) can push these bones out of place. Tinnitus can be caused by this and it can also disrupt your hearing.

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

How do you treat tinnitus caused by a concussion?

Most frequently, tinnitus triggered by a concussion or traumatic brain injury will be short-term. How long can tinnitus last 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 plan changes to controlling your symptoms over the long term.

Here are some ways to accomplish this:

  • Hearing aid: In a similar way to when you’re dealing with 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 up the volume on everything else.
  • Masking device: This device is similar to a hearing aid, only instead of helping you hear things more loudly, it creates a particular noise in your ear. Your particular tinnitus symptoms dictate what sound the device will produce helping you ignore the tinnitus sounds and be better able to focus on voices and other external sounds.
  • Therapy: In some cases, therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be used to help patients disregard the noise produced by their tinnitus. You ignore the sound after accepting it. This technique requires therapy and practice.

Achieving the desired result will, in some situations, call for added therapies. Treatment of the underlying concussion may be required in order to get rid of the tinnitus. Depending on the status of your concussion, there could be several possible courses of action. In this regard, a precise diagnosis is key.

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

TBI-caused tinnitus can be controlled

A concussion can be a substantial and traumatic event in your life. 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 may wonder why.

Tinnitus may surface immediately or in the days that follow. However, it’s essential to remember that tinnitus after a head injury can be managed effectively. Contact 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.