Can Car Accidents Cause Tinnitus?

By Barry Keate
Barry Keate, has lived with tinnitus over 40 years and has published 150+ research articles on numerous aspects of tinnitus. He is an expert on the condition and a well-known advocate for those with tinnitus.

Can Car Accidents Cause Tinnitus


In 2021, there were over 5 million car accidents to the tune of $498.3 billion in injury-related medical bills according to the National Safety Council. If you were recently in an accident, you may experience many confusing symptoms, including tinnitus. The ringing, buzzing, roaring, chirping, or rushing sound in your ears may be a relatively new experience, but was it really caused by the car wreck you were in?

It could be, but how and what do you do now?

Ear Damage

The ear is a delicate instrument. Sound waves enter the inner ear and vibrate the eardrum. The eardrum moves tiny bones, and they, in turn, activate hair-like nerves in the inner ear. Each one responds to a different frequency.

Tinnitus often occurs when the delicate nerves of the inner ear are damaged. Nerves misfire, telling your brain you hear noises that coincide with the frequencies of the damaged nerves, even if nothing in your environment explains it.

In the event of an accident, there are several possible causes of tinnitus.

  • Trauma: Car accidents can be violent, injuring any number of bodily systems. For every crash, there are at least three collisions. The first is the car against a solid object. The second (hopefully) is you colliding with your seatbelt. The third is the abrupt impact of your organs against the bones of your ribcage, abdominal muscles, or skull.
    Additionally, the car can crumple into the passenger compartment, and other objects inside or outside of the vehicle can hit you. Direct impact or puncture wounds to the skull or the impact of the brain against the inside of the skull could damage the part of the brain that interprets sound. A blow to the jaw or side of the head can damage the tiny ear bones.
  • Sound: Sudden loud sounds or sustained vibrations can damage the tiny nerves of the inner ear. Ear damage can occur with as little as 120 decibels of sound. The ear can rupture at 150 decibels. The airbag deploying can be as loud as 160 decibels, which is just one component of a car crash.
  • Whiplash and TMJ: In a car crash, tremendous force can whip the head forward and back. It can damage the structure of the ear, auditory nerve, or disrupt the fluid balance in the ear. Tinnitus can also occur if the jaw is knocked out of proper alignment. The condition is known as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. Up to half the patients who have TMJ dysfunction have tinnitus as one of their symptoms, and in these patients, success rates in eliminating these sounds approach 90% with proper treatment.

Is the Ringing Permanent?

In 80% of cases, tinnitus is only a temporary annoyance. For the other 20%, it can be permanent. This is an example of hoping for the best but planning for the worst-case scenario. Take the following steps for the best possible outcome.

  • Seek immediate medical attention and tell the doctor ALL of your symptoms. Tinnitus is difficult to prove in court should you need to file a claim for future medical bills. The doctor can look for structural damage and document all aspects of the injury, proving that symptoms started right after the accident. Keep all receipts and seek an attorney’s advice if symptoms don’t diminish.
  • Stay in a quiet environment to allow the delicate nerves to recover. This can be difficult in a hospital setting if you or a loved one have additional injuries. Try using earplugs. Foam earplugs cost only a few dollars at the local drugstore, and the hospital may have some.
  • Create an optimal internal environment for nerve regeneration and healing.
    • If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control.
    • Avoid smoking, as it can restrict blood vessels that feed the nerves.
    • Tinnitus natural remedies and supplements, including high-grade ginkgo biloba, improve nerve conductivity and regeneration.
    • Vitamin supplements for tinnitus include
      • B-12: Helps create red blood cells, which feed nerves nutrients and oxygen and impact overall nervous system function.
      • A: Helps the sensory cells in the inner ear stay healthy.
      • E: A powerful antioxidant to reduce oxidative stress on damaged cells.
      • Zinc: Plays a significant role in cellular function and healing.
  • Use stress reduction techniques to find tinnitus relief.
    • Some people find masking helpful. They can sleep or work more comfortably by listening to low-volume music or white noise to drown out the tinnitus sounds. Some people find masking worsens their symptoms, so try it and see how your body reacts.
    • Massage can be a great tool. It helps relax you and loosens tight muscles that might aggravate your symptoms. If you have a trauma injury, talk to your doctor before physically manipulating damaged body parts. Otherwise, you can take a tennis ball between your cheek and the palm of your hand and roll it gently from the temple to the jaw. If you’re a fan of facial massage, this is a perfect time to see your massage therapist or esthetician.

Your Outcome

If you’ve wondered if your tinnitus symptoms could be related to a recent car accident, it’s possible. While the odds of a full recovery are in your favor, it helps to be proactive. Alerting your doctor to your symptoms and taking care of yourself can help your body heal from the accident and improve your chances of kicking tinnitus to the curb.