Traumatic Brain Injury: Tinnitus (Ringing In The Ears) After Brain Injury

Joseph L. CantorMay 9, 2013

Nearly 15 percent of all Virginians suffer a diminished quality of life due to a persistent ringing in their ears known as tinnitus. Based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, more than 50 million Americans deal with some level of tinnitus and about 2 million Americans suffer from debilitating cases of it. 

Although many people believe that tinnitus is caused exclusively by exposure to loud noises, research by the National Institutes of Health indicates that head, neck, and ear trauma may also result in tinnitus. If you have sustained a hard impact from an automobile collision, slip and fall, or another type of brain-related trauma, this may lead to tinnitus.

What Victims Need to Know About Tinnitus

When something disrupts the free movement and processing of soundwaves in the inner ear, it can disturb the ability to interpret them. Within the ear, tiny hairs ebb and flow to maintain a healthy balance, while soundwaves apply pressure. This function prompts the hair cells to send an electrical pulse to the brain. The brain, in turn, deciphers these signals as the everyday sounds you experience.

But when those hair cells or the surrounding nerves are damaged, random electrical impulses leak and your brain experiences a sound that is not actually occurring. The muddied, sometimes high-pitched sound is a phantom that grates on daily life. But getting full fair compensation for tinnitus that results from a hard impact or brain injury can be challenging without an experienced and determined attorney. That’s because other common causes can be used to defend against your claim. These include the following.

  • Exposure to Loud Noise: Tinnitus has deep roots in work-related causes. Heavy equipment operators, truck drivers, construction workers, and those working in high-volume sound industries are likely candidates to suffer this condition. Short-term causes can include attending a loud concert.
  • Age-Related: It’s not uncommon for Virginians to begin noticing naturally occurring hearing loss at about 60 years old. This condition is called “presbycusis,” and may cause tinnitus.
  • Bone Shifts: Conditions such as otosclerosis may result in abnormal bone formations around the ear canal. These are typically hereditary.
  • Acoustic Neuroma: Benign tumors can develop along the cranial nerve that runs from your brain to the inner ear. This nerve regulates hearing, balance, and usually causes tinnitus in only one ear.
  • Eustachian Tube Dysfunction: Sudden dramatic weight loss, radiation treatments, and pregnancy may cause this condition. This results in the inner ear tube remaining fully dilated at all times.
  • Muscle Spasms: When the muscles in the inner canal flex and relax uncontrollably, sufferers experience tinnitus, hearing loss, and the sense that their ear is full. This may be attributed to a sudden jerking of the neck or a hard impact among other causes.
  • Head & Neck Injuries: Hard impacts, whiplash, and other trauma can damage nerves and brain functions that facilitate clear hearing. Victims may suffer ringing in ears after head trauma in one or both ears as a result.

The key takeaway from the various possible causes of tinnitus is that a diagnosis from a medical professional can eliminate some possibilities. Age, tumors, bone disorders, and others can be quickly ruled out. And even hard-working people in high-volume industries can logically point to a hard impact or whiplash as an immediate reason for tinnitus. 

If you didn’t suffer the condition before an incident, it’s reasonable to pinpoint the origin to that incident.

How to Know If You Suffer Tinnitus

Many traumatic brain injury patients suffer tinnitus – ringing in the ears. For most of these patients, the tinnitus is temporary, but for some it is permanent. Tinnitus may be in one ear or both ears and can include any of the following:

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Roaring
  • Humming
  • Hissing
  • Clicking

Tinnitus may be constant or intermittent. Living with tinnitus is often a nightmare for the patient, interfering with sleep, daily conversations, and the inability to enjoy silence. Patients with tinnitus often suffer:

  • Fatigue
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Memory loss
  • Irritability
  • Sleeplessness
  • Headaches
  • Lack of concentration
  • Depression

Tinnitus after brain injury occurs as a result of damage to the inner ear, damage to the auditory nerves, or damage to the neural pathways involved in hearing.

How Long Does Tinnitus Last After Head Injury?

If you are diagnosed with long-term tinnitus, there are other significant health and wellness to consider as well. There are certain critical medications that are known to intensify tinnitus such as antibiotics, antidepressants, cancer treatments, and even aspirin. The inability to manage other conditions can compound the negative impact on your wellbeing. If the tinnitus persists for many months or more than a year, it is likely that the tinnitus is permanent. The best way to ensure that you secure the compensation that you deserve is to get a diagnosis that supports the origin of the condition.

The diagnosis of tinnitus after a mild brain injury is often a diagnosis of exclusion. In such situations, the patient may show no abnormalities in audiological testing, including an audiogram (measure of hearing) or a tympanogram (measure of eardrum function). While such patients do not have any damage to their inner ear, the devastation of having to live with tinnitus is just as real.

Contact A Virginia Traumatic Brain Injury Attorney

With a diagnosis in hand, a proactive Virginia tinnitus lawyer with brain injury experience can put forward a powerful case on your behalf.

The trial lawyer handling a traumatic brain injury case in which his or her client has suffered tinnitus should develop evidence to demonstrate the tinnitus for the jury and the devastation it causes the client. In several of our cases, we have had an audiologist measure the frequency and loudness of our clients’ tinnitus and reproduce and record the sound.

There is no substitute for playing the sound of the client’s tinnitus for the jury. Once the jurors can actually hear what the client has to live with, they are much more receptive to testimony from the client and his or her witnesses about how annoying and disruptive the tinnitus is on the client’s life.

Having a thorough understanding and appreciation for tinnitus following brain injury is essential for the trial lawyer handling traumatic brain injury cases. Dealing with tinnitus after brain injury? Contact our firm, and we’ll discuss your situation and let you know how we can help.

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