There are many different types of tinnitus, or “ringing” in the ears. Some tinnitus is minor and disappears over time. Some tinnitus may be chronic and severe. Some tinnitus may be subjective, where the patient is the only one who can hear the inner sounds. Other types of tinnitus may be objective, where it is not only the patient who can hear the sound, but also the physician evaluating the patient. The possibilities of how and why tinnitus develops in some people seem to be endless, causing experts and researchers to dig deeper to determine the root cause of tinnitus and how best to treat tinnitus for each person suffering from the condition.
Post-traumatic tinnitus is one type of tinnitus that develops after some traumatic event that affects the ears. The trauma may be due to experiencing extremely loud sounds or noises, suffering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI), or by traveling in an airplane or diving underwater with rapid pressure changes. Each of these general causes of post-traumatic tinnitus is further discussed below.
Whether you are a musician, in the military, or one who was simply exposed to extremely loud sounds or noises, the development of post-traumatic tinnitus is something you may experience. Some individuals may lose some or all of their hearing after a traumatic event while others may still be able to hear, but have chronic ringing in the ears that doesn’t seem to have an end. Trauma secondary to noise exposure damages the inner ear which may also cause nerve damage. The type and duration of the noise will play a role in how severe one’s post-traumatic tinnitus is. For example, if noise exposure is constant (such as that experienced by a musician), the resulting tinnitus may be different from someone who experienced sudden and acute noise exposure (such as one who heard an explosion nearby).
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) range in type and severity. So too does post-traumatic tinnitus secondary to a TBI. Particular TBIs may have an impact on the injured individual’s ability to hear normally. The extent and severity of post-traumatic tinnitus may correlate with the type and severity of the TBI. For example, a concussion, which may be classified as a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), may lead to post-traumatic tinnitus that is less severe than someone who suffered serious and permanent brain damage from injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident. The post-traumatic tinnitus experienced may also have different characteristics, such as a pulsing sound or a constant sound, among other variations.
For those who have traveled by air before, you know all too well how uncomfortable the sensation can be with rapid pressure changes, and how you want to “pop” your ears to make the sensation go away. This same feeling is experienced with those who participate in underwater diving. The higher you go up and the lower you go down, the more of an impact pressure will have on your ears. If you travel too rapidly and do not equalize or adjust the pressure in your ears, you may suffer ear damages which then leads to post-traumatic tinnitus.
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