How Traumatic Brain Injury Affects Hearing

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By Lynn Fugaro

Hearing problems are quite common after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) because the inner ear is directly connected to the central nervous system. Ringing in the ear (tinnitus) and hearing loss are two of the most widely reported side effects of a traumatic brain injury. Some other hearing problems that may occur following a brain injury include hyperacusis (normal situations seem very loud); difficulty filtering one set of sounds from background noise; and auditory agnosia (also called pure word deafness). Auditory agnosia is a condition in which the person is unable to recognize the meanings of certain sounds.

Following a TBI, hearing problems can occur for a number of reasons, both mechanical and neurological, particularly when the inner ear and/or temporal lobes have been damaged. External bleeding in the ear canal, middle ear damage, cochlear injury and/or temporal lobe lesions can all cause auditory dysfunction.

Children who suffer TBI typically face additional problems in the areas of communication, acquiring new information, spatial orientation, task completion, impulse control, and social conversation.

The inner ear is made up of a series of delicate membranes, which can easily rupture during a head trauma. The cochlea, which is the important spiral-shaped bone in the ear, can be damaged by a strong blow to the head causing hearing damage. Other types of membrane damage may cause hearing loss as well as dizziness (vertigo) and nausea. Sometimes, surgery can correct damage to the inner ear.

Because hearing loss limits or takes away one of the primary means we use to communicate, hearing loss has the potential to complicate many of the other side effects of brain damage, mainly cognitive and social problems. Many TBI victims already suffer cognitive issues such as trouble finding words, and these problems are only exacerbated if the patient cannot hear what is going on around him.

Fortunately, for some TBI victims, hearing problems disappear a few weeks after the accident that led to the patient’s brain damage, but other hearing problems will last indefinitely. Since many hearing problems cannot even be detected by the patient himself after the TBI, it is recommended that anyone suffering a traumatic brain injury be evaluated by an audiologist, even if nothing appears to be wrong with the victim’s hearing.

If you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury in Houston or anywhere in Texas, please contact the experienced Brain Injury Attorneys at Kennedy Hodges L.L.P.

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