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For anyone who participated in contact sports in their youth—or anyone with a child or grandchild who takes part in these activities—the fear of getting a concussion is certainly on your mind. Otherwise known as Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI, these conditions have a wide range of seriousness, scaling up from a minor bruise on the brain that goes away within hours up to serious brain damage. It goes without saying that these conditions should not be taken lightly. However, it may surprise you how common these conditions are. Traumatic Brain Injuries affect a full 1.5 people in 1,000, making it currently the leading cause of death and disability in the United States. With such a common condition in mind, let’s take a look at some of the common features of these injuries, as well as the relationship with other conditions, such as hearing loss.
What are the symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury?
Neurological impairments are the direct result of many Traumatic Brain Injuries, ranging from sensory functions and motor skills all the way to the autonomic functioning of the brain body connecting, including general bodily control. Some of the conditions resulting from a Traumatic Brain Injury include coordination and balance problems, sometimes inhibiting the ability to walk, sleep disturbances, epilepsy, sexual dysfunction, and sensory impairments in any of the five senses. Beyond these commonly known neurological effects, Traumatic Brain Injuries can cause cognitive dysfunction, as well. These symptoms include memory loss, language problems, including the inability to put together words into meaningful units of communication, and problems with decision-making or judgment. In addition to these symptoms you might have guessed, Traumatic Brain Injury can lead to personality changes, as well. These symptoms are more difficult to understand, including impatience, anxiety, depression, lack of coping skills, anger, and apathy.
How does a Traumatic Brain Injury relate to hearing loss?
As you might have guessed, the same injuries that lead to brain injuries can also cause injuries to the ear canal, limiting or eliminating hearing ability. Take, for example, the blunt head trauma that a football player might incur from a head-on collision with another player. Although the jostling of the brain against the skull can cause a bruise to that tissue, the impact can also crush the ear canal in some instances, and the outer ear can be injured, as well. For these reasons, it is very common to discover that a Traumatic Brain Injury occurs at the same time as an injury to the ear canal resulting in hearing loss. However, the connection to hearing loss can happen another way, as well. As we know, hearing is the process of transmitting pressure from the air into meaningful units of information for the brain to process. If you incur a Traumatic Brain Injury, that condition can affect any part of the process between sensing air pressure to the signals the auditory nervous system transmits to the brain as “sound.” The auditory pathway within the brain can be affected, as well. Some of the common effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury on hearing include tinnitus, inability to distinguish the sound source from the environment, loudness sensitivity, otalgia, aural fullness, dizziness, vertigo, and chronic headache.
What to do if you recognize symptoms of a Traumatic Brain Injury?
If you feel like you are suffering any of these symptoms, do not delay visiting your doctor. A general practitioner or neurologist will be a good first recourse, but you can also visit an audiologist if you notice effects on your hearing.
You will want to be sure to describe the supposed origin of the problem, making sure to get treatment for any underlying issue in the brain in addition to the effects on hearing loss. The good news is that some hearing loss resulting from a Traumatic Brain Injury can come back with time. However, in other cases hearing aids may be the best solution. These devices can be used to restore hearing ability and communication once it has been impaired, and some new hearing aids can even relieve the symptoms of tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, that are often associated with a Traumatic Brain Injury.