Concussions have been connected to myriad mental and physical impairments — from depression to vision issues — but many people, including the medical community, aren’t aware how closely hearing impairments and concussive events are bound around one another. We know that the vestibular system, responsible for balance and spatial orientation and located in the inner ear, can be directly impacted by a concussion. There’s an emergent field of study on how neurosensory systems can be acutely affected, as well, including an individual’s ability to decipher speech in noisy environments.

What is a concussion?

A concussion is what happens when a collision or whipping of the head causes the brain to hit the inside of the skull. The greater the force of the brain impacting the skull, the more severe the concussion, resulting in varying degrees of trauma to the brain that historically has been most well-known to manifest into headaches, cognitive troubles and difficulty sleeping.

How do concussions impair speech-in-noise perception?

With more and more studies revolving around the vestibular system and now neurosensory behaviors, researchers are finding additional evidence that concussions are causing specific types of hearing damage, particularly around speech. Findings are being measured on a Hearing in Noise Test (HINT), which is an audiologic index of the ability to hear sentences in noisy listening conditions. In one 2018 study of adolescents exposed to concussive events, 70% of test subjects performed at or below the 50th percentile on the HINT, compared with 35% of the control group.

What are the treatment options?

Rehabilitative therapies and rest have traditionally been doctor go-tos for complications from concussions, but as deciphering speech in noisy environments is not just an issue for those exposed to concussive events, one of the most progressive tools available today are hearing devices. Bridging the gap between the brain and the ear, hearing aids are the neurosensory systems’ gateway to cutting through the noise of the world. The Phonak Marvel, for instance, is especially touted for its ability to distinguish speech from other noises, utilizing smart revolution tech like Binaural VoiceStream™ that streams audio bidirectionally, so that your brain never compromises one ear over the other. Other manufacturers have similar technologies in their devices. There are also smartphone apps that can be utilized by the patient for real time manipulating the noisy environment they face daily.

If you suspect you may be suffering from a hearing impairment or feel you have difficulty understanding speech in noisy places, call Dr. Andrea Livingston at 863-386-9111 today to schedule an appointment and further discuss how to best protect your health.