Head Injuries & Hearing Loss

In Health, Hearing Loss by Bary E. Williams Au.D.

There are millions of cases of head injuries that are logged each year in the United States alone, and the Center for Disease Control estimates that over one million cases of head injuries are classified as traumatic brain injuries, and that they require hospitalization. What’s the link between hearing loss and head injury?

Understanding Head Injuries

A traumatic brain injury is caused when one is hit in the head with force, and it can also be caused if the head is shaken violently. A traumatic brain injury can also occur, however, as a result of a sound blast: when the pressure of a noise is loud enough to cause brain damage. The injury that these forces cause is typically a contusion, or bruising, of the brain. If the injury is severe enough, it can cause bleeding of the brain, otherwise known as hemorrhaging.

There are many reasons why a head injury or traumatic brain injury can occur. Athletics, and football, in particular, have been in the spotlight recently because of the dangers they pose regarding life-altering concussions. Car accidents are one of the leading causes of traumatic brain injuries, as well. People in moving vehicles that are involved in accidents can not only hit their heads in their vehicles, but they risk traumatic injury even if they are using seat belts and have a seemingly minor crash because the sheer shock and jolting of moving and coming to a sudden stop can be enough to crash the brain against the skull.

One of the leading causes of head injuries is actually falls, which older adults are especially susceptible to. Here, again, the injury can be caused by the head hitting the ground as well as the violence of the shock of doing so. People in the military are especially susceptible to traumatic brain injuries as they are exposed to loud explosions.

Any head injury—whether it is a mild concussion or a more severe, traumatic brain injury—runs the risk of causing permanent damage and people can suffer from lifelong effects. One of the side effects of head injuries that people often do not know about is hearing loss. Knowing the relationships between head injuries, hearing loss, and other possible health problems can go a long way in keeping your body and brain safe.

Head Injury and Hearing Loss

There are several ways that traumatic brain injuries lead and relate to hearing loss. Head trauma can disrupt the pathways between the outer ear and the brain’s auditory cortex, leading to temporary and sometimes permanent hearing loss. Depending on the force and severity of the head injury, the eardrum can rupture, the small ossicle bones of the middle ear can get damaged or dislocated, and there can be damage to the tissues and membranes of the inner ear, and there can be ischemia of the cochlear nerve (the blood vessels so critical to hearing can become restricted).

The combination of traumatic brain injury and hearing loss can have many symptoms. They include, most commonly, dizziness and vertigo, as well as tinnitus, headaches, and chronic nausea. There are other symptoms which include difficulty understanding speech, which can be especially difficult when there is background noise. People with hearing loss that is the result of brain injury can also experience difficulty knowing where particular sounds are coming from, and extreme sensitivity to sounds (which is called hyperacusis).

Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss

Hearing loss cannot be repaired or regained but there are things that you can do to maintain the hearing that you do have and to adjust to the hearing levels you are newly experiencing. The first thing to do is to visit us at Exceptional Hearing Care for a comprehensive hearing test.

A safe, comfortable, non-invasive hearing test will help your hearing health professional understand and diagnose your needs. It will also provide the opportunity to learn about hearing assistance devices, from simple hearing amplifiers to complex hearing aids. There are smaller, everyday things a person with traumatic brain injury related hearing loss can do to stay engaged with their community and surroundings.

Ensuring that the people around you understand that hearing loss is an issue will go a long way to improve communication, and asking people to meet your hearing needs (if, for example, you hear better out of one ear than the other) will make you feel further supported and engaged as you deal with the multiple issues that brain injuries and hearing loss can incur.

Exceptional Hearing Care

Are you concerned with your hearing abilities? At Exceptional Hearing Care, we provide comprehensive hearing health services, from tests to hearing aid fittings. Contact us today to learn more.

Bary E. Williams Au.D.
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