Head Trauma? Hearing Loss? You Might Have a Concussion.
Playing sports requires engaging and communicating with other players, coaches and referees. School requires concentration, listening, and engaging with teachers and peers. Both of these important areas of school life require attuned hearing skills, skills which can be impaired after head trauma.
It is important to understand how concussions impact hearing, so that we can understand how our kids might need our help after injury. If an athlete’s hearing is impaired, they may not be able to play at the expected level, or worse may put themselves at greater risk for injury. Frustration and confusion can also play a challenging role in recovery.
Here’s a quick guide to the connection between concussions and our ears.
7 ear-related signs and symptoms of a concussion
A concussion is an injury to the brain resulting in temporary loss of normal function. This really is a type of mild traumatic brain injury and is commonly caused by contact sports, car accidents and falls.
Concussions present with symptoms of headache, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, and sometimes a loss of consciousness. Concussions can also cause hearing loss — an important sign we can’t ignore!
Concussions can damage the ear, its structures, and the brain. They can also disrupt the delicate network of nerves that are vital to healthy hearing. When damaged, these areas can cause the symptoms below:
- Impaired processing of auditory information, especially with background noise
- Difficulty locating the origin of sounds
- Difficulty with balance
- Nausea and feeling like the room is spinning
- Ringing in the ears
- Heightened sensitivity to normal sounds
- Hearing loss
Assessing concussion status is quick and easy with speech in noise testing
The latest concussion science supports the idea that after a concussion, vision, balance and hearing is often impaired; and our responses to sound can indicate if a concussion actually exists.
A recent study in Brain Injury 2018 found that children and adolescents recovering from concussions had difficulty perceiving speech in noisy backgrounds.
This is important since it gives us a way to measure brain function over time and is a quick and easy way to assess brain healing. We call it speech in noise testing.
The speech in noise test is a quick and easy way to get data on how significant a concussion is. It can also help us decide when our children are ready to get back to school or back out onto the playing field.
If your child plays sports, your audiologist can play an important role in ensuring they stay safe and perform at the top of their game.