The most common form of hearing loss results from a life of exposure to sound. Year by year, the inundation of sound pressure into the ear canal can wear down the tiny hair-like cells of the inner ear. Once these cells have been damaged or degenerate, your ability to sense certain types of sound will be lost. However, this is certainly not the only type of hearing loss that can occur. Those who lose their hearing through exposure to sound over a lifetime have not experienced an injury, per se. In addition to the common form of hearing loss, some people do develop hearing loss as the result of an injury. The nature of that injury can take two forms. In the first form, the direct impact to the head can injure the ear canal, doing damage to hearing ability at the same time. In the second form, damage to the brain can disturb the ability to hear through the auditory nervous system. In these cases, although the ear may be functioning correctly, a Traumatic Brain Injury, otherwise known as TBI, breaks down the ability of the brain to turn the electric impulses of sound into meaningful units. Let’s consider each of these in turn before going on to think about treatment possibilities.
Injury to the Ears
In the case of a head injury, the ears may be structurally damaged by the impact. Not only is the brain vulnerable to injuries ranging from a concussion to a more serious form of Traumatic Brain Injury, but the ears can also be damaged by a blow to the head. Each portion of the ear canal is responsible for transmitting the vibrations of pressure that we perceive as sound into something the brain can understand. If an injury to the outer, middle, or inner ear disturbs this auditory pathway, then hearing loss can result. In some cases of structural damage to the ear, restorative therapy can return hearing ability, particularly when the damage is only present in the outer ear. However, in other cases, the damage may be irreparable, particularly if the injury damages the inner ear. Specifically, the eardrum can be ruptured, the bones of the middle ear can be broken or dislocated, or the membranes and nerves of the inner ear can be injured.
Injury to the Brain
A Traumatic Brain Injury, ranging from the temporary bleeding of a concussion up to serious brain damage, can impair the ability to hear, as well. Some of the symptoms of these kinds of brain injuries include difficulty deciphering the spatial origin of sound, trouble differentiating background noise from voices, and disturbances to equilibrium, including dizziness, nausea, and the feeling of spinning. Just as with injuries directly to the brain, each different circumstance has a different prognosis for healing. Although some Traumatic Brain Injuries can result in a full recovery, others can do permanent damage.
If you know someone who has suffered a concussion, it is important to seek out medical attention right away. Professional and college sports players have been in the news lately, particularly football players, because repeated blows to the head can cause permanent damage when they are not treated by a health professional. Do not allow the person to simply sleep it off and see how they feel in the morning. It can be crucial to get medical attention right away for someone with a concussion. If the person who has experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury also has hearing loss, it is also of vital importance to seek out medical attention. If there has been damage to the structure of the ear, then restorative steps can be taken in some instances. Similarly, if the brain injury has been cause for confusion or mixing up the meanings of things, doctors will want to respond right away with the best information they have about the condition. However, in some cases a doctor may work in concert with an audiologist or other hearing health professional to devise a plan to address the hearing loss itself. Although the effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury can be multiple, the effects of hearing loss can sometimes be remedied with the use of hearing aids.