Traumatic brain injuries have been in the news a lot lately. Football players have been coming forward and telling their experiences with head injuries and the symptoms that followed. Not only are there risks immediately during and after an injury or concussion, but there can be long-term effects, as well. Some of these long-term effects can include hearing loss, so audiologists and hearing health specialists have taken an interest in understanding how traumatic brain injuries and other head injuries can have this effect on hearing. Not only is it possible for a head injury to have a direct effect on hearing through injuries to the ear, but the auditory nervous system can be affected, as well. Let’s take a moment to think about this connection, as well as what you can do to prevent traumatic brain injuries for yourself and your family.
How are head injuries and hearing loss related?
In the case of some head injuries, the connection is clear. A person might have had an injury or a concussion that clearly had an impact on the ear canal or inner ear. Each feature of the ear works to remain sensitive to the nuanced differences in sound, and that same sensitivity makes it susceptible to damage. Take, for instance, the tiny hairlike organelles of the inner ear called stereocilia. These tiny cell clusters detect the slightest difference between sounds making it possible to tell the difference when a person uses a unique tone of voice or has an accent that is regionally derived. These subtleties also make the stereocilia quite prone to damage.
When a person has a head injury, the impact can commonly lead to a flush of fluid, bone, or other pressure into the ear canal or inner ear, causing damage to the components. This head injury might have effects on the brain, indeed, but the direct effects on the ear cannot be ignored. In other cases, the effects on hearing are less obvious. Some head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, can cause damage to the auditory nervous pathway or even the auditory cortex of the brain itself. When these portions of the body are affected, hearing can be damaged on a much more complicated but equally concerning level as a direct injury to the ear itself.
How can you protect yourself and your family?
If you are concerned about the many effects of traumatic brain injury, you might already know that protection is the right way to go. Wearing properly fitted protective headgear can keep you from damaging your brain or hearing ability. Contact sports such as football are particularly prone to causing concussions and other brain injuries, so make sure that your child or family member is not only wearing a helmet during sports but also keeping in appropriately affixed. Motor sports are another common cause of these injuries.
Wearing a properly fitted and secured helmet during motorcycling, dirt biking, or other motor sports can protect your loved ones from a concussion or worse. One more form of protection comes from an unlikely place: wearing your hearing aids. If you have hearing aids, they help you remain aware of oncoming threats in the environment. Those who are at risk of a head injury from a flying object or a vehicle crash often use hearing as the first line of defense against this threat. When you have your hearing aids in place, you will be more likely to detect this potential emergency and to avoid that situation.
Those who have untreated hearing loss tend to have more accidents, falls, and injuries, and these injuries can include traumatic brain injuries, as well. Wearing your hearing aids has benefits not only for your enjoyment, communication ability, and health and wellness. These devices can even help you prevent a serious injury in some situations.
If you have hearing loss but haven’t yet received the treatment you need, the time is now to receive a full diagnosis. By calling our office to set up an appointment for a hearing test, you might be doing more than embarking on the road toward better hearing and communication ability. You might be helping yourself to avoid dangerous events in the future, including head injuries!
If you’ve experienced changes in your hearing, don’t hesitate to seek treatment! Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing test.