You were in an automobile accident. And now, after it’s all said and done, your ears just won’t stop ringing – what doctors call tinnitus.
It’s scary, and it can drive you nuts, but you’re not alone. Roughly 20 million Americans experience burdensome chronic tinnitus, while about 2 million experience debilitating tinnitus.
What is tinnitus, and what can an injury attorney in Baton Rouge do to help you? Keep reading to find out.
What is Tinnitus?
First things first: what is tinnitus, and how does it relate to your automobile accident?
Tinnitus is commonly called ringing in the ears, but can actually manifest as a number of perceived sounds. The common factor is that in most tinnitus cases, the sound is only perceptible to the person who has tinnitus.
The most commonly known form of tinnitus is called tonal tinnitus, which is when you hear a continuous sound with a well-defined pitch. This can include ringing, whistling, hissing, buzzing, or whooshing.
Other forms of tinnitus include pulsatile tinnitus, which is the perception of pulsing sounds often in-beat with the patient’s heartbeat, and musical tinnitus, which is the perception of a song or tune playing on a loop.
Tinnitus and the Ear
Tinnitus can be caused by a few different things related to the ear and brain. First, let’s talk about the ear.
The ear is made up of three parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. These work together to vibrate the eardrum, transmit the vibration to hair cells in the inner ear, and translate that vibration into electrical impulses in the auditory nerve, which the brain interprets as sound.
Main Types of Hearing Loss
Tinnitus and other forms of hearing problems can be caused by damage to parts of the ear or the brain.
There is two primary types of hearing loss: conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
These will affect your tinnitus, in that one form of hearing loss can be helped with the proper medical attention, while the other is neural damage, which is more permanent.
Conductive Hearing Loss
It’s easiest to think of the two forms of hearing loss based on what they affect – one affects the ear, and the other affects the brain.
Conductive hearing loss is related to damage to the ear, typically a mechanical problem in the outer or middle ear. Essentially, the sound cannot be conducted through your ear. This can be due to a failure of the eardrum to vibrate, a failure of the middle ear to conduct sound, or fluid in the middle ear.
Conductive hearing loss is often reversible, most often through cleaning the ear or with a hearing aid.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss, on the other hand, is not reversible.
This form of hearing loss is usually due to damage to the inner ear, typically to the hair cells. The most common example of this is damage due to repeated exposure to loud music, but an automobile accident can have the same effect.
This type of hearing loss can make it harder to hear sounds at certain pitches, or make it difficult to hear someone talking if there is background noise.
Tinnitus and Your Automobile Accident
So how does tinnitus connect to your automobile accident?
Airbags. The short answer is usually airbags. Because although airbags keep you alive, they can also cause a lot of damage in the process.
Airbags and Tinnitus
How can an airbag cause tinnitus? Let’s put it this way.
We know from health class that loud noises can cause hearing loss. The short version of the story is that an airbag deploying can cause what’s called acoustic trauma, which can result in serious damage to your ears.
The Risk of Airbags
An airbag explodes at a pressure level of roughly 170 decibels.
Which doesn’t sound like much until you put it in perspective. A shotgun blast is about 165 decibels, while a rocket launch is around 180 decibels.
Add in the pressure impact of hitting an airbag during an automobile accident and voila, you’ve got yourself a recipe for hearing damage and tinnitus, as well as other injuries like bruising and damage to your teeth.
Injuries Causing Tinnitus
That said, the types of injuries that can occur in an automobile accident which result in tinnitus can vary.
Your biggest points of concern are damage to your head, neck, and brain, which can result in trauma to your ears or neurons resulting in severe ear pain, burst ear canals, bleeding from the ears, or extremely loud ringing.
If you experienced any of the following injuries during your accident and are now experiencing tinnitus, they might just be related.
Let’s break it down.
You hear the phrase whiplash mentioned often in connection with an automobile accident because it’s a common injury. What you probably didn’t know was that whiplash can result in tinnitus.
Whiplash can be caused by any motion similar to a rear-end collision. What essentially happens is that the trunk is thrown forward and the head, due to inertia, is thrown backward. Once it achieves hyperextension, the head is thrown forward, resulting in hyperflexion.
Most whiplash cases resolve after a few months. But in about 15-20% of cases, patients develop late whiplash syndrome, the symptoms of which include head and neck pain, vertigo, hearing loss, and tinnitus.
Head and Neck Trauma
Along similar lines, general head and neck trauma in an automobile accident can result in tinnitus under the right circumstances.
Tinnitus, in this case, is typically the result of nerve damage, interruption of blood flow, or muscle problems which result in the perception of tinnitus. It’s more common for patients in this case to report a greater severity of tinnitus, along with greater variation in the volume, sound, and frequency.
You’re also likely to have other issues going on as a result, so you might think that tinnitus is the least of your concerns. But you can’t disregard it – it may be indicative of a larger issue.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Finally, we have a traumatic brain injury, which falls under the category of sensorineural hearing loss.
Traumatic brain injury is usually an injury caused by concussive force to the head resulting in brain damage (another common culprit: airbags). The impact results in damage to the brain’s auditory processing, creating tinnitus symptoms and major hearing issues. This is why it is so important to check for signs of a concussion after an accident.
This is one of the most common causes of tinnitus among veterans and the military. If you suffered a traumatic brain injury and are now suffering from tinnitus, it’s time to call a lawyer.
Litigating Hearing Loss Claims
This brings us to our next steps. You’ve been in an automobile accident, and you’re now experiencing some form of tinnitus as a result.
What happens now?
Chances are, you’re probably confused, upset, and more than a bit disoriented. You’ve had a lot of medical terminologies thrown at you, and you’re not sure where to turn first.
When this happens, you deserve compensation for the pain and suffering you’re experiencing as a result of your automobile accident.
Which means it’s time to call your lawyer.
They know how to take the information of your case and represent you to make sure you get the compensation you deserve. But first, you have to help them help you.
If you’ve just been in an accident, you should seek immediate medical attention.
This is for two reasons. First, you’ve just been in an automobile accident. You’re hurt. And you don’t want to make it worse by putting off necessary treatment.
The second is that you need a doctor to tell you what’s going on following your accident. This includes official diagnoses, documents of the extent of your injuries, and the treatment required.
The doctor can also determine whether your tinnitus is temporary or permanent, which will change how your case proceeds.
Your lawyer will need all of this information to represent you properly to your insurance company.
For more first steps if you’re experiencing tinnitus following a car accident, check out this blog post.
Compensation for Your Automobile Accident
Let’s be honest: hearing problems and tinnitus following an automobile accident can have a serious impact on your day-to-day life.
As a result, your tinnitus and connected injuries can be part of a claim to cover medical costs for the conditions.
Your claim can include demand for payment for any of the following:
- Hearing aids
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent disability
- Medical bills
- Future medical bills
- Lost job or wages
- Lost earning capacity or diminished earning capacity
The key is to document the full extent of your injuries and how they have impacted your life. Then, bring all of this information to your lawyer to figure out how best to proceed with your case.
Talk to a Lawyer
The next step? Call a lawyer.
You might think that you can handle the ins and outs of the case on your own. You can try, but the truth is, your life is currently a jumble of anxiety, stress, and medical bills, plus the pressure of your insurance company. You need someone with a level head to make sure everything is being handled in the best way possible.
Plus, an automobile accident attorney has far greater experience with cases like this than you do. They know how to help – let them make your life easier.
Give them a call, and make sure to provide them all the relevant information related to your case. This includes medical information, diagnoses, the progress of treatment, police reports, etc. Anything that might seem useful needs to end up on your lawyer’s desk.
Ideally, you should call your lawyer as soon as possible. They know everything they need to help represent you properly, and they’ll be happy to take you through the process step by step.
They may also want to send their own investigators to the accident scene if possible, and begin speaking with witnesses to the accident as soon as they can while the incident is still fresh in their minds.
Don’t wait a month to call a lawyer. The sooner you ask them to help, the sooner they’ll be able to provide help.
Talk to Your Insurance Company
Once you’ve talked to your lawyer, it’s time to talk to your insurance company.
Or rather, time to have your lawyer talk to your insurance company on your behalf. And while they’re doing that, don’t talk about the details of your case to anyone, least of all your insurance.
It’s hard for your lawyer to do damage control for you if you’re saying things that make your insurance company less likely to view the situation in your favor.
Prepare Your Claim
Which, again, has a lot to do with having your lawyer help you.
The first step is to sit down with your lawyer to discuss the details of your claim. This will have to do with the ins and outs of your case, figure out what should be included in your claim, and how best to represent it to your insurance company.
The key here is to be as open with your lawyer as possible and make sure to provide them all the relevant information they need to accurately prepare your claim.
And then? Don’t start freelancing and talking to your insurance company on your own. Let your lawyer handle it – they know what they’re doing and they know how to make sure this works out. Let your lawyer do their job so that you can focus on getting better.
Find the Automobile Accident Attorney for You
And if you need a lawyer after a car accident, you’ve come to the right place.
We offer attorneys who can help with all kinds of auto accidents from head-on collisions to rear-end collisions to rollover accidents and more.
We know what we’re doing. And we also know that personal injury lawyers like to go in big with their guarantees. We’re different – we want to make your experience as stress-free as possible because you’ve already had enough stress for a while.
Hire us, and if you’re not satisfied, you can terminate within 30 days and not owe us anything.
If you’re ready to get started, get in touch with us for a free case review.