Hearing loss in head injury poses a difficult problem-patients are sometimes unaware of their hearing problems because of cognitive impairment, and others may mistake their hearing loss as a memory or communication problem. It has long been known that hearing loss is common in head injury, and yet it is not always properly diagnosed.
Direct damage can occur to the middle and inner ear, or by tearing the neuronal pathways to the auditory areas of the brain. Secondary damage can occur from bleeding and pressure, or from diffuse axonal injury. A recent study of 290 head injury patients was conducted in order to confirm the prevalence and type of hearing loss found after head injury. Patients received a broad range of audiological assessments and the results confirmed that about 30% of the patients suffered from hearing loss. In most patients, the hearing loss was mild.
Even mild hearing loss can be potentially frustrating, not only for the patient but also for family members and rehabilitation specialists. In addition, proper rehabilitation and recovery can be delayed if the hearing loss is mistaken for cognitive impairment. With the relatively high prevalence of hearing loss in head injury confirmed in this study, clinicians should consider adding hearing tests to their battery of assessments for head injury.
Munjal SK, Panda NK, & Pathak A. Audiological deficits after closed head injury. The Journal of Trauma: Injury, Infection, and Critical Care. (January 2010).