TBI and Hearing Loss
Hearing loss often happens in conjunction with other invisible injuries, such as traumatic brain injury, or TBI. Hearing and balance issues are often overlooked in polytrauma patients because other visible wounds often take medical priority. Still, hearing loss may mask or confuse the correct diagnosis of other injuries. For example, a TBI patient could be misdiagnosed as unresponsive when hearing loss is present. Given the interconnectedness between hearing loss and other invisible injuries, it’s important to understand each condition.
Traumatic brain injury is a structural injury and/or physiological disruption of brain function as a result of external force. Loss of consciousness, memory loss of events surrounding the injury, disorientation, and confusion are all indications of TBI. Hearing loss is often associated with TBI cases, either because the traumatic injury damages the inner ear or because there is damage to the part of the brain that processes sound.
An undiagnosed case of hearing loss can interfere with the effectiveness of medical care and rehabilitation for TBI patients. Auditory problems could be mistaken for signs of cognitive deficits attributed directly to TBI. Factors associated with both hearing loss and TBI, such as attention, cognition, neuronal loss, and noise toxicity, can lead to misdiagnosis. Hearing loss may also exacerbate the social, emotional, and cognitive effects of TBI.