Although hearing loss is commonly regarded as a degenerative condition caused by aging or prolonged exposure to loud environments, it can also result from a traumatic injury. If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident, especially one in which the airbag deployed, you may find that your hearing has become impaired.
There are three primary ways that a car accident can cause loss of hearing: whiplash, head trauma, and airbag deployment. Below is an overview of each outcome and how they can result in serious and permanent ear injuries.
Whiplash occurs when your head and neck move violently back and forth, potentially damaging the muscles and soft tissues in your neck. It happens more frequently with rear-end collisions, which account for 34% of all car accidents in Maine.
Depending on the severity, whiplash can cause damage to your inner ear structures and even lead to temporomandibular disorder, or TMJ, which has been known to result in vertigo, tinnitus, and hearing loss.
If your head strikes the windshield, steering wheel, or another part of the vehicle, it can cause a traumatic brain injury and damage your auditory pathway at any point between the ear and the brain’s auditory cortex. Even a comparatively mild head injury like a concussion can result in the following:
- Ruptured eardrum
- Disruption of blood flow to the cochlea
- Damage to inner ear tissues, membranes, and hair cells
- Damage to the small bones in your middle ear
Studies suggest that 17% of motorists involved in a collision involving airbag deployment will suffer some level of permanent hearing loss.
The amount of noise generated by a deploying airbag will vary with its type, size, and location. The pain threshold due to noise is approximately 140 decibels: a single exposure to this level of sound pressure can cause permanent hearing loss. The Hearing Health Matters website supplied the following data about airbag noise levels:
- The side front airbag will produce peak sound pressure levels of approximately 160 decibels.
- Dual airbag deployments can reach 170 decibels.
- The side airbags that are optional in some vehicles can generate a sound air pressure of 178 decibels: when they deploy close to the ear, the risk of sudden, extensive, and permanent ear damage escalates.
Symptoms of Traumatic Hearing Loss
If your auditory structures suffered intense trauma after a car accident, you may find yourself experiencing symptoms like the following:
- Difficulty distinguishing voices
- Muffled and foggy hearing
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Painful itching and burning in the ears
- Pressure or fullness in one or both ears
The impact of hearing loss on your life cannot be underestimated. If your job requires you to answer phones and interact with people directly, you may no longer be able to carry out your duties effectively and could lose your job. On the social front, you may withdraw from friends and family because you are too embarrassed to ask them to keep repeating themselves. You may also be worried that you’ll misunderstand what others are saying to you.
When a negligent driver’s actions leave you with injuries that affect your physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing in this manner, you have a right to compensation.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Treating patients with accident-related hearing loss is a complex and lengthy process that requires help from audiologists and other medical professionals. You may have to wear a hearing aid and be prevented from doing work that you are trained and otherwise qualified to do. If this happens to you, a Maine personal injury attorney will give you the guidance and representation that results in the settlement or award you need to move forward.
Fales & Fales, P.A. is a personal injury law firm that relentlessly seeks justice for clients. This includes ensuring that you receive fair compensation for any losses you incur due to hearing loss after a car accident. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact us.