March may be National Brain Injury Awareness month, but knowing how to recognize symptoms of a serious head injury is important all year round. Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) have been linked to a host of long-term, debilitating conditions, including some that could affect your hearing and stability.
Every year, people sustain brain injuries in a variety of ways. These include:
- After falls
- While playing sports
- In vehicular accidents
- From falling objects
While some cause little more than a temporary headache, others can result in serious, sometimes permanent injuries―particularly if you sustain a concussion. Concussions can affect the way your brain functions, causing changes psychologically (e.g., personality, judgment, and memory) and physically (e.g., vision, balance, and hearing). The effects have also been found to be cumulative―the more TBIs you sustain throughout your life, the more likely it is you’ll experience lifelong difficulties.
Potential for hearing and balance difficulties
Depending on the location and severity of a TBI, conductive hearing loss and tinnitus (chronic ringing in the ears) can result on a temporary or ongoing basis. Possible causes include:
- Dislocation of the ossicles (tiny bones in your inner ear)
- Temporal bone fracture
- Disruption of fluid in the cochlear aqueduct
- Perforated ear drum
- Neural damage (eighth cranial, aka vestibulocochlear nerve)
Besides hearing loss and tinnitus some patients experience vertigo and balance problems post-TBI. For those who develop post-traumatic Meniere’s disease, these symptoms can become chronic.
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