Latest posts by Leanne E. Polhill, LHAS, BC-HIS, BA (see all)
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The Center for Disease Control estimates that over one million cases of traumatic brain injuries each year, just part of the larger collection of nearly 3 million head injuries that occur each year. A traumatic brain injury is caused when one is hit in the head with force, when the head is violently shaken, and sometimes as the result of a sound blast, when the pressure of a noise is loud enough to cause brain damage. Here, we take a look at a connection between head injuries and hearing loss.
Causes of Head Injuries
Head injuries can be caused by a variety of impacts. Soccer and football have recently been in the spotlight for the dangers they pose when it comes to repeated concussions. Aside from sports, car accidents are one of the leading causes of traumatic brain injuries, as are bicycling accidents (even if someone is biking safely while wearing a helmet).
One of the leading causes of head injuries is actually falls, where head injuries can be sustained both by the head hitting the ground as well as the violence of the shock of doing so. People on active military duty are also susceptible to traumatic brain injuries as the result of their exposure to loud explosions. These head injuries can cause bruising of the brain as well as hemorrhaging, which is bleeding of the brain.
The Effects of Head Injuries
Whether it is a mild concussion or a severe, traumatic brain injury, head injuries can cause permanent damage and difficult lifelong effects. Hearing loss is one of the side effects of head injuries, and of traumatic brain injuries, in particular. Becoming aware of the relationships between head injuries and hearing loss may go a long way in keeping your body and brain safe.
Hearing Loss and Head Injuries
There are several ways that traumatic brain injuries lead and relate to hearing loss. Head trauma often disrupts the sensory and neural connections between the outer ear and the brain’s auditory cortex, interrupting how the ear receives noise and how the brain translates sounds into intelligible sounds.
Especially forceful or severe head injuries can cause physical damage to the ear as well, making hearing difficult or impossible. This occurs when the eardrum is ruptured or when the small ossicle bones of the middle ear are damaged or dislocated. Severe shocks can also damage the inner ear’s tissues and membranes and the cochlear nerve’s blood vessels can be restricted (a condition called ischemia).
There are many symptoms of the combination of traumatic brain injury and hearing loss. Some of the most common symptoms are dizziness and vertigo, as well as tinnitus, headaches, and chronic nausea. Other symptoms can include difficulty understanding speech, especially when there is background noise. People with hearing loss can also experience difficulty knowing where particular sounds are coming from, as well as extreme sensitivity to sounds—a condition that is called hyperacusis.
Addressing Hearing Loss
It is important to address hearing loss for people who have experienced traumatic brain injuries, because undiagnosed hearing loss can get in the way of effective medical care as well as the effective body and mind rehabilitation of people with traumatic brain injuries. Hearing problems can sometimes be mistaken for cognitive deficits that are directly related traumatic brain injuries, and things that are associated with both hearing loss and traumatic brain injuries—like attention, cognition, neuronal loss, and noise toxicity—can cause misdiagnoses.
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 communicate with the people and medical staff supporting you.
The first thing to do is to visit us at Encore Hearing for a comprehensive hearing test. A safe, comfortable, non-invasive hearing test will help us understand and diagnose your needs, help you select a hearing aid, if needed, and help adjust to your new hearing capabilities.
If you are as clear as possible about your hearing ability and your hearing needs with the people around you will aid in communication, you will ultimately feel as connected and supported as possible. There are many issues that accompany hearing loss and brain injuries alike. Remaining vigilant about your hearing health is just one thing that you can do to ensure your path to recovery, whatever that may look like, is as smooth as possible.
Contact us at Encore Hearing to learn more.