Head Injuries & Hearing Loss

You often hear of the importance of wearing a helmet when you ride a bike or skateboard. Similarly, you often hear of the importance of seat belts for when you get behind the wheel – but have you ever stopped to truly consider why there is so much emphasis from governments and private institutions for this type of safety gear? Your brain is one of the most important organs of your body. Some people claim that it is where your soul or personality is generated

It doesn’t take much for the force of a traumatic brain injury (also known as a TBI, concussion, or head injury) to cause irreversible damage to your brain and every corresponding part of the body your brain controls –essentially just about every part of your body controlled by nerves. This of course includes your hearing system, which is also susceptible to an impact or blow in conjunction with the brain.

The Impact of a TBI on the Auditory System

It doesn’t even take that much impact to displace the delicate bones of the inner ear, rupture the eardrum, or disrupt parts of the brain responsible for auditory processing. After impact, it’s common to experience a persistent ringing, buzzing, or hissing sound that may occur in one or both ears, known as tinnitus. Other people who have survived a  TBI report hyperacusis as well—a condition in which an individual is extremely sensitive to higher volumes of sound. 

The Vestibular System and Head Trauma

An impact may also affect the vestibular system which is housed side by side with the auditory system. The vestibular system is a fluid filled organ which works similarly to the auditory system in how it reports information to the brain. Both systems rely on tiny hair-like cells, which rest in fluid. As the fluid moves, these cells inform the brain, by converting the information into electrical impulses. In the case of hear, sound vibrations cause the fluid of the cochlea to vibrate and allows that sound to be transferred to the brain. In the case of balance, as the fluid moves depending on the position of our head, it informs the brain and sends corresponding information to the muscles, skin and other parts of the body which work together to keeps up balanced every day. 

When an impact occurs to the head it can dislodge parts of the vestibular system, leading to spatial disorientation, dizziness, difficulty judging distances, and a sea sick like simulation of feeling that you or your surroundings are in motion.

 TBIs: All Too Common 

How common are TBIs? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 1.6 to 3.8 million traumatic brain injuries each year result from contact sports and other recreational activities. TBIs are especially common among football players, with up to 10% of all college players and 20% of all high school players sustaining TBIs during annually. Car accidents are the second leading cause of TBIs, making up 17.3% each year, right after falls, which make up just over 35% Of those injuries, up to 50% involve hearing loss or sudden-onset tinnitus.

How Serious is Hearing Loss Connected to TBIs?

Fortunately, most cases of hearing loss resulting from a TBI resolve on their own within a few months. The brain is resilient and with that, auditory processing often recovers. It’s important to take a blow to the head seriously and visit a medical professional immediately, even if you don’t initially experience any symptoms. Brain bleeding or damage to the auditory system may be present. In rare instances the damage can be permanent, such as when the cochlea is irreparably damaged. It’s important to get an assessment as soon as possible. With head trauma, the sooner you act the more of a chance you have of reversing or avoiding damage.

 Preventing TBIs

Do what you can to avoid a TBI by wearing your helmet when riding bikes, skateboarding or playing high impact sports such as football or Lacrosse. Whenever you get behind the wheel, it’s imperative to wear your seat belt. Otherwise in the case of an impact, your body will continue to travel at the speed you were going previous to impact, resulting in serious damage to your head and whole body.

If you do feel you have suffered hearing damage as a result of a TBI, do not hesitate to have your hearing examined. Contact us today to schedule a hearing exam.