Whether you are a football player, cyclist, motorist or pedestrian, the danger of a head injury is always present. Many people don’t understand that the effects of a hit to the head can last long after any physical pain has passed. Head trauma can change how someone learns, thinks, performs and behaves. A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is any kind of injury that causes structural or physiological change to brain function. It is usually the result of an external force like a blast, a direct blow or a fall, and will present with the occurrence or worsening of any of these following signs:
- Loss or decreased level of consciousness
- Memory loss
- Feeling dazed, confused or disoriented
- Neurological changes including weakness, loss of balance or changes in vision
Hearing Loss with Traumatic Brain Injuries
When a person suffers a brain injury, the first concerns are always cognitive impairment, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and visible wounds. It’s important to remember that your hearing could also be compromised. One of the biggest problems with a traumatic brain injury is diagnosing exact injuries, because those who suffer from it will often have multiple injuries at once, making diagnosis and treatment a challenge. Hearing and balance issues are often secondary to physical trauma. The symptoms of hearing loss can lead to confusion and misdiagnosis of other injuries.
Hearing Can Be Compromised
Many people with a traumatic brain injury suffer damage to the inner ear or temporal lobe, but even if the ear itself isn’t damaged, the way the brain processes sound could be compromised. Due to the head trauma, a concussion can cause ear damage and changes to the auditory pathway up to the brain. Many changes can occur to the ear, causing reversible or sometimes even irreversible damage. These damages include:
- a ruptured ear drum
- damage to the small ossicle bones of the middle ear
- damage to the tissues and membranes of the inner ear
- ischemia of the cochlear nerve.
- disruption to the central auditory pathways of the brain
Hearing Loss With Mild Injuries
Undiagnosed hearing loss can interfere with the success of medical care and rehabilitation or could be mistaken for other conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, cognitive disruptions or mental health. Often Hearing loss can aggravate the social and emotional effects of a traumatic brain injury. Even a person with a mild traumatic brain injury, who may never lose consciousness or who only blacks out for a minute or two, may suffer from some hearing changes. After mild traumatic brain injury symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, confusion, blurred vision, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and/or behavioral changes. Any of these symptoms, and the injury itself, can be amplified by any hearing loss, whether present from before or any new hearing loss as a result of the injury.
Treatment of TBI Hearing Loss
When it comes to helping someone who has experienced auditory deficits as a result of a concussion, or TBI, there are a few suggestions you can follow to help your loved one feel connected:
- Reduce background noises in the room and eliminate distractions. It helps to have only one person talk at a time to eliminate competing signals.
- Face the person when you are talking to them so that they can use both the auditory and visual cues to help with understanding.
- Ask our team at Exceptional Hearing Care about assistive listening device options which may help to improve communication.
An Audiologist Can Help
A trained audiologist is an essential part of the treatment team for any person suffering from a brain injury. Correct testing, diagnosis, and correction for the hearing loss with the best tools available, makes it easier to understand, diagnose and treat other symptoms from a brain injury. Hearing loss can confuse the injury, and it is easily diagnosed and treated when you are aware that it may be present. If you or a loved one suspect that you may have hearing loss from an injury, contact one of our experienced audiologists at Exceptional Hearing Care today. You don’t have to deal with this alone. We’re here to help.