Head Injuries & Hearing Loss

Head Injuries & Hearing Loss

Bonnie L. Baehr, Au.D. Uncategorized

Bonnie L. Baehr, Au.D.
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Approximately 1.4 million people in the U.S. experience a brain injury annually, with more than 50,000 resulting in death. Sports injuries, motorcycle crashes, unexpected falls or assaults are some of the most common causes of head injuries resulting in concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI). 

At first it may appear that there is no injury, but over time the condition can develop rapidly as swelling can occur in the brain, pushing against the skull and limiting oxygen rich blood to the brain. There are many serious implications of head trauma, but one which many people often overlook is its impact on hearing. 

Identifying Hearing Loss with Head Injuries

TBI is a broad term describing a broad category of injuries to the brain. When your head sustains impact, it can directly cause sudden damage, resulting in lasting effects in physical and mental abilities. When the head sustains impact the brain crashes back and forth inside the skull causing potential bruising, bleeding, and tearing of nerve fibers. 

Hearing and balance issues are often overlooked when a patient is involved with a collision, because of more pressing visual wounds taking priority. Often hearing loss after an impact is a sign of other invisible injuries, so it is important not to ignore this symptom. Hearing loss is often associated with TBI cases, because an impact to the brain can often damage the area of the brain that processes sound. 

In addition, the inner ear consists of tiny hair cells which process sound and deliver it to the brain to be processed. When these hair cells are damaged as they can be from head injuries, the amount of sound that can reach the brain can be limited causing irreversible hearing loss. When hearing loss goes ignored it can impact a person’s mobility, sense of independence, physical activity, mood and mental health.

Symptoms of TBI-related ear damage

Ear damage is often an important clue to diagnosing TBI. When a person experiences vertigo and dizziness after an impact it is a common sign of damage to the ears. In fact, dizziness accompanies hearing damage in 40-60 cases of TBI. Other common symptoms include chronic nausea and migraines. Some of the symptoms of ear damage due to TBI are unified under the umbrella of most forms of hearing loss. These symptoms include trouble comprehending speech, trouble deciphering conversation amongst background noise, issues with localization of sounds, tinnitus and extreme sensitivity to sound. 

Concussions and Hearing Loss

A bump, blow, or jolt to the head can cause a less severe form of head trauma known as a concussion. A concussion is a much milder form of traumatic brain injury. Even so, a concussion can cause damage within the ear or damage the auditory pathway to the brain. Impact can cause the eardrum to rupture, damage tiny bones in the middle, interrupt blood flow to the cochlear nerve or cause damage to the tiny hair cells. Any of these injuries can limit hearing either temporarily or permanently.

Treatment for Hearing Loss

Once you’ve been diagnosed with hearing loss due to a concussion or TBI treatment can take time. It is important to make sure you put yourself in the easiest circumstances to hear. This will ensure that you struggle less when having to converse. 

Reduce background noise so you can more easily focus on sounds around you. Make eye contact and make sure you have a full view of people you are speaking to so you can rely on visual cues to help hear. Because most cases of hearing loss due to head injury are irreversible hearing aids may be the best solution to help you hear.

These tiny complex devices are worn on and in the ear. They pick up the sounds around you, converting them to electrical signals which are sent to your brain. Hearing aids allow you to hear the world around you as you may have in the past. 

If you are struggling with hearing loss due to an impact to the head do not delay in seeking treatment. The longer hearing loss progresses, the worse the side effects can become. Call today for a hearing consultation.