Head Injuries and Tinnitus

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Traumatic brain injuries can be life-altering events that trigger short-term to long-term health effects – including tinnitus. 

Many people who have suffered a concussion, or traumatic brain injury, report a ringing in one or both ears. Research has uncovered a possible link between head injury, traumatic brain injury, and concussion with the onset of tinnitus. 

Fortunately, there is hope. By recognizing and understanding the connection between TBI and tinnitus, healthcare professionals are better able to provide successful treatment plans. Your doctor or audiologist can help develop tinnitus management techniques.

Let’s explore recent studies on the link between traumatic brain injury and tinnitus and help you understand risk factors and treatments.

What Is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the perception of sound when there is no external source. Many people describe it as a buzzing, humming, hissing, or ringing in one or both ears. The intensity and type of sound people perceive can vary, and for some people, it’s more than an annoying sound. Tinnitus can affect quality of life, leading to stress, anxiety, sleep problems, and difficulty focusing.

"Treble Health helped me reduce my tinnitus by about 80%, and now I can live my life again!"
"Treble Health helped me reduce my tinnitus by about 80%, and now I can live my life again!"
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Hearing loss is the leading cause of this common condition, but about half of all people who have experienced a concussion or brain injury also report the onset of tinnitus.

Understanding Head And Brain Injuries

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From scalp wounds to cranial trauma, a head injury is any damage sustained by the cranium and its contents. The range of extent can vary greatly – an abrasion or bump may not lead to brain harm while more severe cases could cause extensive medical complications.

Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are the result of a significant blow to the head, from mild concussions to serious brain damage. Slips and falls are unfortunately among the most frequent sources of these incidents, yet they can also be caused by contact sports accidents, car crashes, and violent acts. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that Americans experience 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries every year.

TBI can lead to various physical, cognitive and emotional symptoms from severe headaches and difficulty concentrating to memory loss and changes in behavior. Getting immediate medical care is critical to minimizing or shortening these serious symptoms.

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Concussion Vs Traumatic Brain Injury

You might be surprised to learn that a concussion is generally considered a brain injury. The severity of a concussion, however, varies. Some medical providers describe it as a mild traumatic brain injury, but the effects can be quite serious. 

Concussions are caused by a bump or blow to the head that rapidly shakes the brain back and forth. They’re very common among people who play contact sports, and can also be caused by a fall, car accident, assault, and other injuries to the head.

With treatment, concussions typically don’t result in long-term neurological damage, but like TBI, concussions have a long list of symptoms. Many people experience headaches, nausea, vision changes, difficulty with concentration and memory. These symptoms can last for days or weeks after trauma.

The Relationship Between Head Injury And Tinnitus

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Ongoing research is uncovering the potential connection between TBIs and tinnitus, with various studies suggesting a higher likelihood of developing ringing in the ears after brain trauma.

While the specific cause of this potential link is not yet known, some research suggests it may be caused by damage to certain parts of the brain or alterations in neural pathways. Changes in blood flow, auditory nerve, and inner/middle ear can arise from head and neck traumas – even if they don’t directly affect your hearing. Additionally, skull fractures due to trauma have been linked with possible hearing loss. The damage can extend far enough into the inner ear that it affects delicate hearing organs like the cochlea or vestibular system.

Studies On The Link Between TBI And Tinnitus

There have been many studies searching for the link between trauma and the perception of tinnitus. Much of this research suggests that tinnitus is a direct consequence of a traumatic brain injury.

Whether or not tinnitus is directly caused by a head injury, research suggests that the worse the head injury, the greater the risk of developing tinnitus afterwards.

One study shows that TBI is associated with more severe tinnitus symptoms. Furthermore, a second study shows that people who developed tinnitus after head trauma had more problems with concentration, memory, and mental health conditions.

Chronic tinnitus – that is, persistent or recurrent tinnitus that lasts more than six months – is also linked to head trauma. 

A study from the University of Regensburg found that people with a traumatic brain injury had a higher chance of experiencing tinnitus than the general population. The severity of the injury and the persistence of TBI symptoms affect tinnitus and hearing loss, as well. 

Military Medicine revealed that a staggering 70% of service members who had sustained traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) developed tinnitus. Even more concerning is the fact that those with severe head traumas and multiple concussions were at an even higher risk than this average, likely due to their increased exposure to potentially damaging noise levels during combat operations.

Seek Immediate Treatment For Head Injuries

Traumatic brain injury is a grave global health issue that could lead to death or disability. If you believe you have suffered head trauma, it’s vital you seek medical care immediately. Appropriate treatment of any kind of head wound can aid in diminishing symptoms and avoid lasting repercussions on your physical wellbeing and lifestyle. It’s essential to note that signs of TBI – including concussion – might not make themselves known for days after the incident has taken place.

Treating Tinnitus After A Head Injury

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If you’re experiencing a persistent ringing in your ears, treatment options are available. Cognitive behavioral therapy, sound therapy, retraining therapies, hearing aids, lifestyle changes, and stress reduction techniques can help reduce your perception of tinnitus. Speak to the audiologists at Treble Health to see which tinnitus management techniques are best for you.

Be sure to discuss any history of a head injury with your doctor. This helps your healthcare team better understand the underlying cause of your tinnitus and provide more targeted care.

Treating Tinnitus With Treble Health

At Treble Health, we specialize in helping individuals navigate the complexities of tinnitus. We understand the relationship between head injuries and to tinnitus, and our team is here to provide the guidance and support you need.

Take the first step towards relief by scheduling a complimentary telehealth consultation with our experienced audiologists. In this 20-minute Zoom session, we will delve into your unique situation, providing answers to your questions and personalized strategies to manage and alleviate your tinnitus symptoms. We are committed to helping you regain control over your auditory world, guiding you towards a life of tranquility and well-being. Don’t wait; schedule your free consultation today and begin your journey to a quieter, more peaceful life.

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Additional References:

  1. Wang, Jun-Feng, et al. “Intracranial Pressure Monitoring in Patients with Traumatic Brain Injury: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” PLoS One, vol. 7, no. 9, 2012, https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0045599#abstract0.
  2. “Head Injury.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/head-injury. Accessed 15 Mar. 2023.
  3. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Traumatic Brain Injury | National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. www.ninds.nih.gov. Published 2022. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/traumatic-brain-injury 

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