When we think of motor vehicle accident injuries, we often think of broken bones, damage to internal organs and whiplash. One level that we do not often consider is the impact on our senses of sight, hearing, feel, taste and smell. Yet, your senses can be severely affected by any head trauma, and car accidents are one of the leading causes of such trauma.
With increasing frequency, medical professionals are linking head trauma to all sorts of loss of senses. The scientific community has long known, obviously, that our sense of hearing can be diminished due to a jolt to the head. What scientists are now drawing is a stronger connection between our senses of taste and smell and head trauma.
In the high-stress minutes and hours after a vehicle accident, a loss of hearing might be the furthest thing from your mind, even if you have a ringing sensation in your ears. You might be reluctant to contact a car accident attorney or a medical professional after your accident, thinking that you will be “okay” and not wanting to get involved in a long legal process.
However, if you suspect that any of your senses have been impacted by your accident, you need to immediately contact a doctor and a good car accident lawyer. You are going to need a huge compensation package to pay for your medical bills, lost wages and general suffering.
Here are some of the ways that a vehicle accident can affect your sense of hearing:
- The jolt of whiplash can cause tinnitus (constant ringing of the ears) and/or hearing loss.
- An airbag’s deployment can rock your neck and head in such a way to cause hearing loss. It can also make a noise up to 170 decibels, which can damage your ear through “acoustic trauma.” Passengers in the car where an airbag is deployed can also suffer ruptured eardrums and tinnitus. Some research indicates that almost 15% of people in a car where an airbag deploys suffer some level of hearing loss.
- A blow to the head that causes unconsciousness can dislocate or fracture the middle ear bones, or the cochlea in the inner ear. That can lead to fluid leakage and bleeding, which can lead to hearing loss.
- Partial hearing loss due to an accident can result in a failure to detect high pitches. This sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible. If you are unable to hear certain parts of a woman’s speech or a child’s, you might have this partial hearing loss.
- Skull fractures that involve the temporal bone can cause severe, permanent hearing loss after an accident.
- In rare cases, your ears might work fine, but your brain will be unable to interpret what your ears are hearing. This is called “central hearing loss” and can occur after severe head trauma as the brain is bruised.
How can you tell if you have suffered hearing loss after a vehicle accident? Here are some of the symptoms:
- Muffled hearing
- Difficulty understanding what people are saying, especially if there is background noise or competing voices
- Listening to the radio or television with the volume higher than normal
- An unconscious avoidance of conversation and social interaction
- Ringing, roaring, hissing or buzzing in the ear
- Pain, itching or irritation of the ears due to leaking fluid or pus
Some ear injuries heal on their own; others require surgical intervention. Broken and damaged ear bones can be replaced with artificial bones, and hearing aids can also help to recover most of your sense of hearing. What you might think is a minor loss of hearing could turn into a major problem as fluid leaks or is built up in the ear, and that simple ringing can lead to an inability to hear many other sounds around you.
All of the treatments and procedures to cure hearing loss cost large amounts of money, which is why you will want to have a skilled car accident attorney on your side to gain much more compensation that insurance companies are usually willing to give. The size of your compensation will depend on factors such as: how many ears are affected; a mild or severe loss; evidence of pain, and the existence of continual ringing.
Of course, head trauma can also result in a significant decrease in your ability to see the world around you. Be alert to blurred or double vision after an accident, or the inability to see out of one eye or the other. These can be related to concussions that you suffer as a result of an impact, and these symptoms might not go away on their own.
Head injuries can also cause “anosmia,” which severely limits the senses of smell and taste. Most often, this happens when the nose or tongue are damaged directly, but it can also occur when the sensory cortex in the brain has been bruised due to trauma. Your senses of smell and taste might recover after such a bruising, but they will not return to normal if that part of the brain has been torn.
Another level of sensory loss can be the lack of feeling as you touch objects. This can result from danger to your spinal cord, such as a bulging disc or herniated disc. When these shock absorbers are misaligned or damaged, they can result in a tingling and/or numbness in your arms (connected to neck discs) or legs (connected to back discs).
Finally, severe burns can also damage the nerves in your body, impacting your sense of feeling. If the burn goes through the three top layers of skin, it can destroy the nerves in a given area and lead to a total lack of feeling when those parts of the skin, even if repaired, touch an object.