Perhaps one of the most annoying and persistent problems after a car accident can be tinnitus (often known as "ringing in the ears"). While tinnitus may not be physically painful, life threatening, or require surgery, it can certainly affect an individual and their daily life. It's a persistent and pervasive problem that may never go away.
The condition is basically characterized by the feeling a "constant sound" for which there is no external source. In short, people with tinnitus perceive a constant sound and hear it all the time. Sometimes, it's more prevalent when the surroundings are silent (like when going to sleep). The sound victims of tinnitus hear is often described as a persistent buzzing or "ringing" in the ear. Sometimes it is very high pitch, like a buzz saw.
Many people have experienced tinnitus during their lifetime, even without being involved in a car accident or without having some type of underlying disease or medical condition. In most cases, it is difficult to identify the cause. Sometimes taking certain medications like aspirin can cause temporary tinnitus. However, when tinnitus persists, there are times when people simply have to learn to live with it. Some people use devices that create "white noise" to reduce their perception of the sound.
Tinnitus can be the result of an abnormality in the ear. It is commonly reported by people who suffered a head injury. In many cases, victims will seek the help of an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist who will often refer them for audiological testing to confirm the diagnosis and the severity of the problem.
Sometimes the sound is in one ear more that the other. In some cases, tinnitus can be brought about the loud sound of a car accident crash or the loud sound of airbags deploying. If the tinnitus is from a head or neck injury, it most often affects one ear more than another. In many cases, the condition will improve over time. Many times, victims of car accident report the tinnitus to their health care providers only to be reassured that the problem is likely temporary and will soon subside. However, if it doesn't subside, the accident victim should seek a specialist's care.
Of course, since tinnitus is only perceived by the individual, proving it to an insurance company (or a judge/jury) can be quite difficult. That is why any symptoms should be documented as quickly as possible after a car accident. Make sure you tell all your health care providers about the problem as soon as possible. Reporting ringing in the ears six months after an auto accident will cause others to doubt your claim. You can imagine the insurance company will argue it's not related. Your credibility along with proper medical documentation is the key to your case.
If the tinnitus doesn't subside, some ENT doctors will recommend "tinnitus retraining therapy" (TRT). This is to help people who have tinnitus retrain themselves to cope with the sound. Retraining therapy has been around for years. It's a way of helping victims of tinnitus cope with the condition and hopefully find it less bothersome. Training generally involves educational counseling and sound therapy. Victims of tinnitus are taught about the physiological mechanisms of their condition and how new habits can help break the effects of that condition.
If you have tinnitus after an accident, make sure all your health care providers document your condition to the extent possible. If the condition doesn't subside after a few weeks, see professional help from an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist and/or an audiologist.
by Robert Mansour
Robert Mansour is a personal injury lawyer serving Santa Clarita, Valencia, Saugus, Canyon Country, Newhall, Stevenson Ranch, Castaic and surrounding communities.