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When you hear about a concussion, what is the first situation that comes to mind? Some think immediately of American football players who have been in the news so much for the injuries they incur during games and practices. The constantly repeating crash into other bodies can jostle the brain tissue up against the skull, resulting in bruising and in some cases permanent damage. Others will think about a car accident in which the head crashes up against a window or steering wheel. Popular mythology tells us not to let a person with a head injury fall asleep, and indeed it can be the inclination of a person with a concussion to fall asleep, but this response can cause further damage. One other context that should come to mind is the possibility of hearing loss, but few people make the connection to hearing loss when they think of a concussion.
The more general medical term for this type of condition is Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, and these incidents are much more common than you might think. Some reports even claim that Traumatic Brain Injuries are the leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Indeed, Traumatic Brain Injuries are part of many accidents, including car accidents, and the symptoms may go undetected in some cases. Let’s take a closer look at the effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries, as well as the relationship with another condition that is not considered often enough: hearing loss.
The Effects of Traumatic Brain Injury
The most obvious effects of Traumatic Brain Injury have to do with neurological functioning. After an incident, common reports have to do with dizziness, confusion, loss of balance, trouble walking, and even speech problems. Some people have sleep disturbances, while others have trouble controlling their motor functioning. Some people experience the symptoms of epilepsy or spasticity in the limbs. Sexual dysfunction can be associated with the injury, as can general fatigue. One of the most powerful effects of Traumatic Brain Injury is a loss of sensory functioning in any of the five senses, including hearing. Beyond the neurological effects, cognitive effects take place, as well. Trouble connecting words to meaning can take many forms, including forgetting words, mixing up sentences, or trouble focusing. Decision making can be affected as well, including poor judgment regarding safety decisions. Beyond the cognitive effects, some people experience personality changes following a Traumatic Brain Injury. Some people become easily agitated or frustrated, experience anxiety or depression, and others have problems with anger management. Still others have trouble coping, experience low self-esteem, or have a general sense of apathy and malaise.
The Relationship between Traumatic Brain Injuries and Hearing Loss
Of course, some injuries have a direct result in hearing loss apart from the incident causing brain injury, as well. If the blow to the head occurs in the vicinity of the ear, the ear canal can be directly damaged. Furthermore, the loud sound of an explosion or car crash can do damage to hearing even apart from the damage the accident causes to the brain. Tinnitus is another common effect of a traumatic incident, particularly one in which a very loud sound occurs. However, some Traumatic Head Injuries also cause damage to the auditory pathway within the brain. By affecting the link between the cochlea of the ear and the ability to translate these electrical impulses into meaningful thoughts, Traumatic Brain Injury can also result in hearing loss. The injury may be localized within the brain and still have an effect of limited hearing ability or other hearing-related conditions, such as difficulty identifying a sound source, aural fullness, volume distortion, or related conditions of equilibrium such as dizziness or inability to feel balance.
If you have had a concussion or other Traumatic Brain Injury, take a moment to assess your hearing ability. You may want to have a hearing test to make sure that your senses have not been impaired in relation to the event. The first line of recourse will be your doctor for any condition related to a head injury. However, your doctor may want to connect you with an audiologist or hearing health professional if hearing aids are a good line of treatment for sensory impairment.