Hearing Loss after a Car Wreck | Everything You Need to KnowJuly 26, 2021
Hearing loss and tinnitus affect millions of people throughout Maryland. Although these conditions are not life threatening, they may still impact a person’s overall quality of life. Impaired hearing makes communicating difficult and may limit work and social opportunities. On top of these daily challenges, aids to improve hearing can be quite costly.
Unfortunately, hearing-related problems are not uncommon after a car wreck. Anyone dealing with accident-related hearing loss and conditions needs to know how to get help for pain, disability, medical bills, and other expenses.
How Does Crash-Related Hearing Loss Occur?
Many individuals involved in different types of car wrecks experience some degree of ear pain and sensitivity and/or hearing loss. This occurs for a few different reasons.
Airbag deployment. According to Consumer Reports, 17 percent of motorists who experience a car wreck in which the airbags go off suffer some type of permanent hearing loss. Someone who has never experienced firsthand the airbags in a vehicle deploy may not realize just how loud it can be.
The sound of an airbag deploying is around 150 to 170 decibels. When two airbags go off at the same time, the pressure is higher. And a side airbag can generate air sound pressures as high as 178 decibels. That is around the same sound level as a jet taking off at 25 meters. It is louder than jackhammer, farm tractor, or a steel mill in operation.
In fact, it is enough to rupture a person’s eardrums. Research shows that a single exposure to a pressure sound at 140 decibels is enough to cause permanent hearing loss.
Head trauma. An impact to the head is another leading cause of crash-related hearing loss. When a person’s head strikes the dashboard, steering wheel, or any part of the vehicle or even another person, there is a risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI). If damage occurs at any point along the auditory pathway that runs from the brain’s auditory complex to the ears, hearing is likely to be affected.
Head trauma can also cause the following injuries:
- Damage to the tiny bones of the middle ear
- Damage to hair cells, tissue, or membranes of the inner ear
- Interruption of blood flow to the cochlea
- One or both ruptured eardrums
- Skull fractures that cause bones to pierce the ear canal
Whiplash. Whiplash is a personal injury caused by a sudden and forceful thrusting of the neck back and forth and is common in car wrecks, especially read-end collisions. People can also suffer whiplash when playing contact sports or as a result of a physical assault or abuse, when the head is violently shaken.
In some cases, whiplash is so severe that it causes inner ear damage along with hearing loss, ringing in the ears, headaches, and neck pain and stiffness.
A Closer Look at Hearing Loss
Hearing loss as a medical condition is a bit more complex than the inability to hear. Hearing loss varies in type and severity, depending on how it occurred and how severe the injury was. There are three primary types of hearing loss:
- Conductive: Involving the middle or outer ear
- Sensorineural: Involving the inner ear
- Mixed: Combination of both types of hearing loss
Symptoms and signs of hearing loss include the following:
- Muffled speech and other sounds
- Difficulty making out consonants
- Having to turn up the volume on the television or phone
- Asking others to speak more clearly, slowly, or loudly
- Trouble discerning words, especially when background noise is present
Beyond the physical limitations caused by hearing loss, the condition often affects a person’s confidence and self-esteem. They may hesitate to socialize and withdraw from conversations out of fear of not understanding what is being discussed.
How is Hearing Loss Treated?
The treatment and prognosis for hearing loss depend greatly on the physiological factors causing the condition. Hearing aids are the most conservative approach to treatment. Non-invasive and easy to use, hearing aids make a difference for many patients.
More severe hearing loss may be improved with a cochlear implant. This device bypasses the injured parts of the ear to stimulate the hearing nerve and increase function. In other cases, surgery is recommended to address damaged structures of the eardrum or hearing bones.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a ringing or other noises in one or both ears. This noise is not an external sound, and those around the person cannot hear it. Some people with tinnitus may experience clicking, buzzing, humming, or hissing. These noises can come and go periodically or be ever-present.
Very often, tinnitus sounds are so loud that they interfere with a person’s ability to concentrate. It can make it hard to focus on school, work, and daily conversations. Some hearing loss actually causes tinnitus. In other cases, it is caused by a head or neck injury, such as in a car wreck. Medications, ear infections, and exposure to loud noises can cause tinnitus as well.
Treatment for Tinnitus after a Car Wreck
Hearing aids are a common treatment for tinnitus caused by exposure to loud noises. White noise machines and masking devices help suppress tinnitus symptoms by producing continuous low-level white noise. That can make ringing, buzzing, and other sounds less noticeable.
Changing medications and treating blood vessel conditions can improve tinnitus that is unrelated to a car wreck or other sudden trauma. Some doctors recommend behavioral therapy and counseling for patients with tinnitus to provide coping skills and address anxiety and depression that can come with a frustrating condition such as tinnitus.
Additional Hearing Loss Symptoms after a Car Wreck
Some symptoms that coincide with hearing loss are indicative of a serious brain injury. Anyone experiencing the following symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible:
- Central auditory manifestations
- Chronic ear pain
- Distorted or reduced hearing
- Heightened sensitivity to loud noises
- Ringing in the ears
Filing a Claim for Hearing Loss and Other Damages
Because hearing loss after a sudden trauma such as a car wreck can have lasting effects, anyone with unusual symptoms should take them seriously. To find the underlying cause and proper treatment plan for hearing loss, a visit with a primary care doctor and an audiologist is recommended.
Fortunately, when a person’s hearing problems started after a car wreck, their medical bills may be covered by compensation. For example, in Virginia, which is an at-fault state, injured car wreck victims have three options to recover financial damages:
- They can file a car wreck negligence claim against the driver who was at fault.
- They can file a third-party claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
- They can file a claim directly with their own insurance company.
Because the circumstances surrounding every car wreck are different, it is impossible to say which is the best option for victims. Instead, accident victims should consult with a trusted car wreck lawyer in their community for individual legal guidance.
Proving Hearing Loss for a Claim
Regardless of which route an accident victim takes to pursue justice after a car wreck, the injured party is required to produce evidence of their injuries. Unlike something such as a broken bone, hearing loss is not as easy to prove.
Individuals with signs of hearing loss and/or tinnitus should seek immediate medical attention as soon as they notice symptoms. During the examination, they should describe symptoms in detail and explain how their hearing loss has impacted family, work, and hobbies. Patients should note if they ever had symptoms prior to a car wreck. It is helpful to share how the accident occurred and if they suffered any other injuries, especially trauma to the head and neck.
All of these details help the doctor determine the underlying cause of hearing loss and assess if the condition is related to trauma experienced in a recent car wreck. Victims should always make copies of diagnoses, prescriptions, tests, and medical bills and give them to the lawyer. This documentation may just be the critical evidence an injured plaintiff needs to prove their injuries and recover compensation for their losses.
Baltimore Car Wreck Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Victims Recover from Their Injuries
Hearing loss can change the way a person lives their life in countless ways. It can keep them from working, socializing, and just enjoying the common everyday sounds most take for granted. If you experienced sudden, incurable hearing loss after a serious car accident, call the Baltimore car wreck lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We are proud to advocate for injured victims and will use every legal tool available to recover damages after a life-changing injury. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.