Groupe Forget - Polyclinique de l'Oreille

Effects of a head injury on the hearing system

Did you know that experiencing a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) could have a significant impact on your hearing system?

In addition of causing a possible damage physically to the ear (bleeding, perforated eardrum, etc.), a blow to the head can cause difficulty understanding speech in the absence of hearing loss by creating impairment in the auditory processing.

What can the audiologist do to help you about this?

Difficulties in speech understand in background noise following a mTBI

In Canada, each year, 6 out of 1,000 people suffer a mTBI, either following an accident involving a vehicle or during the practice of a sport. A few years after their accident, more than half of these people will feel the effects of an auditory processing disorder, i.e. an impairment of their ability to understand and analyze auditory information in the absence of a hearing loss.

Indeed, the ear organ is used to capture sounds and is where typical hearing loss is usually observed. On the other side, the auditory nerve and the central auditory system in the brain are where we interpret and process auditory information.

A blow to the head during sports can cause damage to the auditory nerve and other structures involved in the journey of the sound to the brain or even in the hearing part of the brain itself.

This is why some people who have had a mTBI report various listening difficulties, without having any hearing loss. For example :

  • Difficulty understanding speech in a noisy environment
  • Difficulties analyzing music
  • Difficulty localizing sounds
  • Difficulty organizing or processing sounds

What should I do if I have this kind of difficulties after head injury?

By administering a battery of tests, the audiologist can evaluate auditory processing, determine problematic hearing skills and offer various solutions to adapt. In fact, you could follow a hearing training program, learn the use of communication strategies or even benefit from the use of a listening device.

Little tip: Following a mild TBI, be sure to update your hearing health by consulting your audiologist! The sooner a hearing problem is identified, the sooner we can adapt to it!

BY Marilène Roy, Audiologist, Polyclinique de l’Oreille