Traumatic noise isn’t the only way your ears can be damaged. A blow to the head can cause just as much damage to your hearing, if not more. Let’s take a closer look at what happens when you experience trauma to your ear by examining some of the most common physical injuries.
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If you’ve ever attended a UFC fight, spent time around soccer hooligans, or watched wrestling, you’ve probably witnessed an injury known as a perichondrial hematoma, also known as cauliflower ear. Caused by direct physical trauma to the ear, cauliflower ear is — fortunately — easily treatable. If left untreated, it can, per Healthline, lead to a number of potentially serious conditions, including hearing loss and an increased risk of ear infections.
The initial symptoms of cauliflower ear include:
- Blurred vision
- Impaired hearing
Without proper treatment, the ear may become deformed as blood begins to pool in the area due to torn blood vessels. The tissue will then start to die, eventually being replaced with scar tissue. That scar tissue is what gives cauliflower ear its distinctive appearance.
Treatment for cauliflower ear involves the following steps:
- Apply ice or a cold pack immediately after the injury occurs.
- Have a doctor drain excess blood from the area. Do not attempt to do this yourself.
- Dress the ear with a compression bandage after the blood is drained.
- Take antibiotics to prevent infection.
- Avoid physical activity which may exacerbate the injury.
As the result of severe trauma to the head, concussions range from mild to potentially life-threatening. In mild cases, the brain may experience minor bruising. More severe concussions can create cranial hemorrhages.
Although concussions are rarely life-threatening, they can be extremely debilitating if not properly treated. A serious enough concussion can cause temporary or even permanent damage to the inner ear, in addition to potentially damaging the auditory center of the brain. To make matters worse, people who’ve suffered one concussion are at higher risk of suffering another.
Generally, if you experience any blow to the head, I do not advise waiting for symptoms. If their onset is not immediate, it can take anywhere from five to seven days before you begin experiencing any serious side effects. Visit a doctor immediately.
Arguably one of the most common ear injuries, punctured or ruptured eardrums are most frequently the result of improper cleaning. Although painful and incredibly inconvenient, an eardrum rupture is rarely severe enough to require immediate medical care, although you may want to visit a doctor for antibiotics. And if the injury persists for more than a few weeks, you will want to seek treatment.
Symptoms of a ruptured eardrum include:
- Immediate, moderate to severe ear pain
- Fluid drainage from the ear
- Vertigo, often accompanied by nausea or vomiting
- Temporary hearing loss
This injury is also easily avoided. Simply don’t use cotton swabs to clean your ears, and don’t stick anything in them either.
Protect Your Ears
Like any other part of the body, the ears can be damaged through physical trauma. Knowing the most common types of injuries is the first step to avoiding them or treating them when they’re unavoidable.
Pauline Dinnauer is the VP of Audiological Care at Connect Hearing, which provides industry-leading hearing loss, hearing testing, and hearing aid consultation across the US.