The symptoms of a concussion appear in many forms. People will often complain of dizziness, sensitivity to light, headaches or nausea, but researchers now find that it affects hearing. The brain performs many vital functions, and one of them is processing the electrical signals sent by the ears.
How does this happen?
A concussion disrupts auditory information processing, causing the data to bottleneck. It can lead victims to have difficulty recognizing nuances of tone, cadence and volume. While it may get signals for sound, it has difficulty distinguishing between different voices amidst a loud din. It may affect the concussed individual’s ability to differentiate what each ear signals, thus making it difficult to triangulate and identify the location of a sound.
Processing sound is complicated
“Making sense of sound is one of the hardest jobs that we ask our brains to do,” says Nina Kraus, a professor of neurobiology at Northwestern University. “So you can imagine that a concussion, getting hit in the head, really does disrupt sound processing.”
Krauss has spent five years studying college athletes who suffer from concussions, yet she estimates 15% to 20% of all concussion victims suffer from ongoing sound-processing challenges. It adds up to thousands of people here in the U.S. each year.
The issue is particularly acute for armed services personnel subjected to roadside explosions in combat zones. Veterans come into audio clinics not understanding what is going on – their hearing tests are normal, but they have the same audio processing symptoms. In this case, they also may have problems processing rapid speaking.
It can affect anyone
People from all walks of life can suffer a concussion and its symptoms. It can result from a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall, and other normal events that cause head trauma. It is essential for anyone with symptoms to seek help. A trained medical professional can help diagnose the injury and prescribe a course of treatment. Most recover from these injuries over time, but not everyone is so lucky.