Can Car Accidents Cause Tinnitus?

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Car accidents can indeed cause tinnitus. However, tinnitus is generally a symptom of an underlying problem, such as an ear injury or damage to the sensory hairs in the inner ear. When someone is injured in a car accident, they may develop tinnitus, particularly if they suffered a head injury or were exposed to loud noises during the crash.

Tinnitus is the perception of phantom noises. Even when no external sound is present, those who suffer from tinnitus experience what is commonly described as ringing in the ears. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that approximately 10 percent of adults in the U.S. had tinnitus lasting at least five minutes in the past year.

Some people with tinnitus perceive the noise to be constant, whereas others experience it intermittently; some hear the noise only in one ear, while others hear it in both ears. The causes and symptoms of tinnitus are also varied. It can be caused by sinus infections, Meniere’s disease, problems with parts of the brain that process sound, or even a piece of earwax. However, one of the most common causes of tinnitus is exposure to loud noise.

Symptoms of Tinnitus

Tinnitus can be mild or severe. Sometimes it goes away on its own after a few days or weeks, but in some cases the damage is permanent. Individuals with persistent tinnitus may become distracted, irritable, and depressed. Chronic tinnitus can also give rise to other health issues, such as stress, vertigo, insomnia, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating.

Those with tinnitus often have accompanying hearing loss resulting from an injury to the middle or inner ear. Such acoustic trauma has two main causes: exposure to loud noises and head or neck injuries. Many victims of car accidents suffer hearing loss from head or neck injuries, particularly in head-on collisions, side-impact accidents, and rollovers.

How can a Car Accident Cause Tinnitus?

Car accidents are one of the most common causes of tinnitus. Individuals who sustained a head injury are most at risk for acoustic trauma, including tinnitus. Car accidents often involve loud noises and rough bodily impact, both of which can lead to hearing injuries. Common causes of tinnitus resulting from car accidents include the following:

  • Whiplash. When the neck is abruptly and forcefully moved back and forth, it may result in a whiplash injury. Although whiplash may go away after a few weeks of treatment, severe cases may also include long-term complications, such as neck pain, decrease in range of motion, blurred vision, and tinnitus.
  • Airbags. Although airbags are effective in saving lives, they can also inflate at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour. When they are rapidly expanding, airbags can create noise that results in hearing loss. The likelihood of developing tinnitus from airbag deployment depends on the level of noise, length of exposure, and individual sensitivity.
  • Loud noises. Noise-induced hearing loss or trauma is common among those with tinnitus. Hearing loss can occur as a result of repeated exposure to loud sounds over time, or it can result from a single loud noise, such as a crash. Loud noise can damage hair cells in the cochlea, as well as the auditory nerve, which may cause loss of hearing or ringing in the ears.
  • Head or neck injuries. Victims of high impact car crashes often suffer head or neck injuries, including whiplash and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Head trauma can affect the inner ear or nerves, commonly resulting in hearing loss and tinnitus. Tinnitus tends to be more severe when it occurs as a result of head or neck injuries as opposed to other causes.

Is There a Cure for Tinnitus?

There is currently no scientifically proven cure for most cases of tinnitus, according to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA). The perception of ringing in the ears cannot be fully eliminated, particularly in cases caused by sensorineural hearing loss. While the search for a definitive cure continues, there are some ways to significantly minimize the effects of tinnitus and thereby improve quality of life.

It is important for those experiencing any symptoms of tinnitus to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Tinnitus is technically a symptom of an underlying cause, such as auditory system problems, head and neck injuries, or even a side effect of certain types of drugs, such as aspirin or antibiotics. Therefore, there is no screening test for tinnitus. However, by a patient describing their symptoms and medical history, their doctor should be able to determine the cause of the tinnitus, as well as the best course of treatment.

Treatment of Tinnitus

The best and most appropriate treatment strategy will depend on various factors, such as the type and level of tinnitus, as well as the patient’s medical background and lifestyle. The ATA lists several treatment options available to those with tinnitus, including the following:

  • Hearing aids. This option can assist the brain in focusing on outside ambient noises, thus making it more difficult to perceive tinnitus. It also increases auditory stimulation to the brain and stimulates auditory pathways.
  • Sound therapy. By using external noise, a patient’s perception of tinnitus can be altered, thereby reducing its effects. For example, some devices may provide background noise to mask the tinnitus, whereas others may use external sound to divert the patient’s attention away from the tinnitus.
  • Behavioral therapy. This type of treatment focuses on patients’ emotional reaction to tinnitus and seeks to provide them with coping techniques. Such coping techniques may include cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction, acceptance and commitment therapy, and other holistic approaches.
  • Pharmacologic treatment. At present, there are no FDA-approved drugs for tinnitus. However, some drugs may provide relief from tinnitus symptoms, such as anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications.
  • Physical therapy. In some cases, tinnitus is caused by physical dysfunctions in the body, such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. TMJ disorders may be caused by teeth grinding or injuries to the jaw; treating these underlying causes may also alleviate tinnitus symptoms.
  • Experimental treatment. Researchers are continuing to explore different treatments for tinnitus. Some potentially beneficial experimental treatments cited by the ATA include repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), deep brain stimulation (DBS), brain surface implants, and vagus nerve stimulation.

Compensation for Tinnitus Caused by Car Accidents

How much a plaintiff will be able to recover depends on the circumstances of the case and the state in which the car accident occurred. Some states follow the comparative negligence rule, which allows injured drivers to recover compensation, even if they were partially to blame for the accident. However, Maryland follows the contributory negligence rule, which states that a plaintiff may be barred from collecting damages if the defendant can prove that the plaintiff was partially to blame.

Therefore, in Maryland, only those who were involved in a car accident through no fault of their own may be able to obtain compensation for their car accident injuries, including tinnitus. Eligible plaintiffs may be able to recover both economic and non-economic damages for injuries arising from the accident. Those seeking compensation for tinnitus caused by car accidents must file their claim within the three-year statute of limitations and should therefore seek legal counsel as soon as possible.

Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Car Accident Victims Obtain Compensation for Tinnitus

If you were injured in a car accident and are suffering from tinnitus, contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton today. Our experienced attorneys can evaluate your case and help you recover the maximum damages to which you are entitled. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.

Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.