Ear Injuries and Hearing Loss After a Car Accident

If you’ve ever been in a car accident, you know that there can be a lot of noise. From the screeching of brakes and crushing of metal to the loud explosion of the airbags or the wail of an ambulance, car accidents are pretty noisy events. So why are ear injuries, from temporary tinnitus to permanent hearing loss, often overlooked?

Nearly 50 million Americans experience some kind of hearing loss, according to the Hearing Health Foundation. This means that 1 out of every 5 Americans suffers from hearing loss, including 1 out of every 5 teens and nearly half of all people over 75.

Hearing Loss

These are four main types of hearing loss: conducive, sensorineural, mixed, and audio neuropathy. They each concern different aspects of the ear. Conducive hearing loss, for example, affects the outer and middle ear, while sensorineural hearing loss results from cochlea damage. Though it does not lead to hearing loss, another common ear issue is tinnitus. A disorder which causes phantom sounds like ringing or buzzing in the ears, tinnitus is commonly caused by damage to the hairs in the inner ear.

For people who suffer from hearing loss, tinnitus, or other ear disorders, some of the most common causes include:

  • Genetic factors
  • Aging and degeneration
  • Viral and bacterial infections, like meningitis
  • Noise, from loud music at a rock concert to explosions in a combat zone during a war

However, traumatic injuries—especially those sustained during car accidents—are also a major cause of hearing loss and other ear problems.

Ear Injuries from Accident Trauma

During a car accident, one common cause of hearing issues is a head injury. When someone collides with their steering wheel, window, or other object, they might not only suffer from injuries to their eyes, mouth, ears, and other parts of their face and upper body. During a collision, types of ear injuries can include:

  • Dislocation or fracture of middle ear bones
  • Cochlea fracture
  • Holes in the inner ear
  • Fracture of the temporal bone, which is near the ears at the base of the skull
  • Inner ear bleeding

Injuries like broken ear bones are not only painful, but can also lead to hearing loss. For example, the bones in the middle ear carry sound to the inner ear, which allows us to hear. If one of these bones is broken, it could affect hearing in that ear. This shows that any kind of ear injury can have a dramatic impact on the functioning of the ear.

The Injury Risk of Airbags

The airbag is another common cause of hearing loss and ear damage during car accidents. Though airbags are an important safety feature, they are also very loud. When an airbag goes off, the sound that it creates is over 170 decibels. This is louder than a jet during takeoff, a clap of thunder, or the sound of a nearby jackhammer. The average pain threshold for noise is about 140 decibels, so the loud explosion of an airbag has the potential for serious damage.

Since an airbag is so loud, it has the potential to cause immediate and permanent hearing damage. It can also rupture the eardrum, creating a hole in the tissue that separates the ear canal and the middle ear. The loud noise can also lead a lingering ringing in the ears, which can last for days or even weeks or months after the accident.

After an Accident

While it might not seem as damaging as an injury like head trauma or a broken neck, even the smallest ear injury can lead to serious or even permanent hearing loss. Even though ear injuries might not necessarily be life-threatening, sudden hearing loss can have a major impact on a person’s job, family and relationships, and their general well-being as they adjust to a major life change.

After a car accident, don’t overlook any kind of pain, even if it seems like a minor injury, and be sure to see a doctor right away. As ear injuries show, even the tiniest bone or hair can make a huge difference.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.


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