Most people have experienced a temporary ringing in the ears as a result of exposure to loud noises, such as after attending a rock concert.  This experience of hearing a sound when there is no longer an external acoustic source is called tinnitus.  When it’s mild and temporary, it’s just an interesting sensation.  However, when it’s severe and persistent or chronic, it can be a very debilitating and life altering condition.  Tinnitus has many causes, but sometimes you may suffer from tinnitus because of injury resulting from the negligence of someone else.  For example, you can experience tinnitus as the result of head or neck injury in a car accident or construction site incident.  Your tinnitus might be the result of exposure to loud noises at work when your employer didn’t take preventative measures or provide proper hearing protection equipment.  Sadly, military service members are at a particularly high risk of tinnitus from acoustic trauma and traumatic brain injury. Tinnitus and hearing loss are the two top service-connected disabilities among veterans.  If you are suffering from tinnitus as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be able to make a tinnitus claim and get fair compensation for your injury. But, these cases can be complicated and you may need the help of a Decatur tinnitus injury lawyer to get what you deserve.

Tinnitus Facts

According to the Hearing Health Foundation, tinnitus (ringing/buzzing in the ears) affects about 10% of Americans on a regular basis.  Some common causes include noise (they estimate about 30 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels), ototoxic medications (medicine-induced ear toxicity), and trauma.  A study conducted by the Oregon Health and Service University Tinnitus Clinic reported that more than 12% of the patients suffering from tinnitus reported experiencing it after head or neck injury.  One-third of these had suffered neck injuries or whiplash exclusively.  The other two-thirds suffered head injuries or a combination of head and neck injuries.  These patients often suffered from more daily problems because of their tinnitus.  The American Tinnitus Association reports that people who develop their tinnitus as a result of head and neck trauma often report higher tinnitus volume and perceived burden, as well as greater variability in both sound frequency, and location of their tinnitus.  They also note that acute barotrauma, such as occurs with concussive explosive blasts, can damage the middle and inner ear, causing tinnitus. They describe that concussive shock can damage the brain’s auditory processing areas and thereby generate tinnitus symptoms.  Nearly 60% of all tinnitus cases diagnosed by the Veterans Administration are attributable to mild to severe traumatic brain injuries.  And, of course, traumatic brain injury or TBI occurs in many civilian accidents as well, often resulting in tinnitus.  Balance disorders, hearing loss, tinnitus, cognitive difficulties and/or sleep disturbances can be seen in more than 95% of all individuals who sustain mild TBI.

Tinnitus Types and Symptoms

Tinnitus is a symptom characterized by hearing sounds in the ear when no external sound source is present.  It can be associated with hearing loss, but it’s actually a separate symptom.  The most common type of noise heard is a ringing sensation.  However, the noise can take many forms, including sounds of roaring, whistling, blowing, buzzing, squealing, clicking, hissing, or even a whizzing or sizzling noise.  In rare cases, it may sound like radio static or low distant voices.  Tinnitus can be loud or soft, or alternate between the two.  It can be heard in one ear or both ears.  It can come or go randomly, or appear with rhythmic variation.  Unfortunately, for many tinnitus remains constant.  It tends to be more noticeable and bothersome during periods of quiet, such as when trying to sleep.  It can interfere with your concentration and, if very loud, interfere with your hearing of an external sounds.

Whatever the type, volume, or character of the sound heard, tinnitus is usually divided into three categories:

  • Subjective Tinnitus — only you can hear the noise. No one else hears it.  This is by far the most common type of tinnitus, accounting for around 99% of all cases.  It can occur because of trauma to the ear, damage to the auditory nerve, or injury to the part of the brain that controls hearing and hearing pathways.
  • Objective Tinnitus — the sound you hear inside your head can also be heard by others, though it may take a special effort, such as a doctor listening with a stethoscope. Only about 1% of cases fall into this category. The noise can be generated by structures in or near the ear such as muscle spasms or turbulent blood flow that can develop after an injury.
  • Pulsatile tinnitus – a rare subset of tinnitus in which a person hears a pulsing, rhythmic sound that beats with your own pulse. It typically occurs with blood vessel issues.

Whatever the type or category of tinnitus, it can have a devastating impact on the quality of life for the victim.  You may lose the ability to enjoy even simple pleasures such as reading a book, listening to music, or engaging in conversation.  It can cause you to experience many associated symptoms that can be very debilitating:

  • difficulty sleeping and getting enough rest
  • fatigue and lack of energy from the resulting sleep deprivation
  • stress, anxiety, and irritability
  • problems with concentration on external tasks or even conversations
  • memory issues related to problems with focus
  • a recent study cited by the CDC describes how tinnitus can adversely affect work performance and even result in further work related injuries
  • relationship difficulties may result because others can’t experience the symptoms you’re suffering with
  • depression

If you are suffering from tinnitus through no fault of your own, you owe it to yourself and your family to get the advice of a knowledgeable Decatur Illinois tinnitus injury attorney, so that you can get fair compensation for your injury.

Common Causes of Tinnitus Injury

Though tinnitus can have many causes, when it results from an injury caused by someone else’s negligence, you may seek just compensation from the responsible party for the consequences of the injury.  Some common examples include:

  • Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) — Injury to parts of the brain that controls hearing can result in tinnitus. Even mild TBI, sometimes called a concussion, can cause tinnitus. The leading causes of TBI in civilians are car accidents, falls, and physical assault or abuse.  In active-duty service members, blasts are the leading cause of TBI.
  • Other head and neck injuries — even without brain injury, there are a number of small bones in the ear that can be fractured or dislocated as a result of collision impacts and this can cause tinnitus. And, even without a blow to the head, rapid acceleration and deceleration of the head may injure the neck and result in tinnitus.  Whiplash injury alone is a significant cause of traumatic tinnitus.
  • Airbag induced tinnitus — deployment of the airbag in a traffic accident can result in serious and permanent hearing injuries, including tinnitus. A small explosive inflates the bag at high speed.  Though the rapid deployment may prevent fatal injury, the sound of the explosion may exceed 170 dB, which is louder than a shotgun blast or a jet engine.  It may cause a loud ringing in the ears, severe ear pain, and even bleeding from the ear canal.  This acoustic trauma can damage structures in the ear, causing immediate and even permanent hearing loss.  Associated symptoms of tinnitus and dizziness or vertigo are very common.
  • Ototoxic drugs — a number of commonly prescribed drugs can cause toxicity to the ear resulting in tinnitus. If these drugs were improperly prescribed or administered, or inadequately monitored, medical malpractice may have occurred. Ironically, tinnitus can occur not only as the direct consequence of TBI, but also as a side effect as some of the medications commonly used to treat the emotional, cognitive, and pain problems associated with TBI.
  • Occupational hearing loss — many occupations involve exposure to excessive noise. Repeated exposure to industrial noise can eventually lead to hearing loss that eventually becomes permanent.  The loss can come on gradually and tinnitus is one of the first signs of this noise induced hearing problem.  Employers have the responsibility to protect the worker from excessive noise and if they don’t provide adequate noise protection, an employee has the right under Illinois law to seek financial remedies.  This can be done under either the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/) or the Illinois Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act (820 ILCS 310/). Consultation with a knowledgeable lawyer is the best way to decide how to proceed.
  • Service related injuries — unfortunately, tinnitus and other hearing related conditions are an all too common cause of suffering for our veterans. Tinnitus is the most commonly claimed disability for VA compensation. Exposure to loud noises, such as gunfire, loud engines, and blasts are frequent for service members.  And, veterans of recent wars have been particularly impacted by traumatic brain injury and hearing injuries related to improvised explosive devices.  Veterans suffering in this way may be eligible to receive disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs.  However, to do this you must establish a connection between your tinnitus and hearing loss and events that occurred during your military service.  If your claim is denied, you have the option to appeal the decision, but this isn’t something you should deal with alone without competent legal representation.  In addition, there have been product liability claims related to earplugs supplied to the military that were defective.  You may also be able to seek compensation if they were involved in your case.
  • Toxic exposures — certain toxins, such as lead or mercury, can cause tinnitus. If you were exposed because someone else was careless or irresponsible, you may be able to hold them liable for your injury.

Whatever the cause, if your tinnitus resulted from of the negligence, recklessness, carelessness, or intentional bad behavior of someone else, you’re entitled to recover damages for the consequences of your injury. You should have an experienced personal injury attorney in your corner, working for you to make sure that you get what you deserve for the injuries you’ve suffered.

Tinnitus Injury FAQs

What should I do if I suffered tinnitus from an injury?

The actions you take affect not just health, but also your ability to get fair compensation for the injuries.  Some suggestions:

  • Get medical care as soon as possible. Don’t let the fear of costs or the uncertainty about who will be responsible for payments prevent you from getting proper evaluation and treatment. It’s best to be seen by an ear nose and throat specialist to have your symptoms properly evaluated.  Testing by an audiologist will probably be recommended.  You may be referred to a neuro-otologist that specializes in this condition.
  • It’s good to keep a diary of the symptoms you’re experiencing. Note when and how frequently you notice them.  Describe what they are like and how bad they are.  Make note of how it’s affecting your work and ordinary life.  Not only will this help providers in evaluating and treating you, but it will also help in building your claim.
  • Keep track of all the providers you see and any recommended equipment purchased, so your attorney can accurately account for all your medical expenses.
  • If your tinnitus is work related, write down your work history of noise exposures and when your symptoms began.
  • Documentation of a clear relationship in time between the time of your injury or exposure and when your symptoms began, and were then reported, diagnosed, and treated will all make it easier for your lawyer to obtain full compensation.
  • But, don’t make the biggest mistake of all. Don’t rush to sign any settlements, releases, or waivers without legal advice.    Insurance companies or and employer may quickly offer a sum of immediate cash to get you to sign a settlement to resolve the case.  Consulting with an experienced attorney will almost always result in negotiating a better settlement and get you the financial resources needed to help you or your loved one with their recovery.  Don’t delay as there may be legal deadlines that must be met.

What kinds of treatments are available for tinnitus?

Occasionally treatment can be directed at the specific cause for the tinnitus.  But, unfortunately, tinnitus often becomes chronic and treatment is often mostly intended to help you either cope with the symptoms or mask them as much as possible.  There are a few medicines that can serve to reduce the symptoms, but these medications can sometimes have serious or bothersome side effects.  Counseling, therapy, and support groups can help with managing the disability.  Relaxation techniques and meditation have been found to be useful.  Other treatments can involve using electronic noise suppression devices to mask or suppress the noise including:

  • Hearing aids that can help you hear better and reduce the sound of the tinnitus
  • White noise machines that can provide a background noise for use especially at night
  • Masking devices that resemble hearing aids and can overlay the tinnitus with a more pleasant sound

In very severe cases, there are also now some more cutting edge therapies that involve stimulating the brain rather than the ear, such as repetitive transcranial magnet stimulation, transcranial direct current stimulation, and deep brain implant stimulation.

Make sure that you seek the advice of a knowledgeable tinnitus attorney.  You’ll need help to make sure the legal system provides you with all the resources you need to recover from your injury.

What kind of damages can be recovered?

A skilled personal injury attorney is critical to making sure that you recover for all of the damages allowed under Illinois law.  These include:

  • the expense of any necessary medical care, treatment, or counseling services you’ve received or are reasonably certain to need in the future
  • the expense of any specialized equipment needed to treat your tinnitus
  • the value of any wages already lost because of the condition, or likely to be lost in the future
  • pain and suffering or emotional distress caused by the tinnitus
  • compensation for “loss of normal life” — things you can no longer do or enjoy — whether temporary or permanent
  • current or future disability resulting from the tinnitus

Tinnitus is a very bothersome symptom and should be taken seriously. But these cases can be difficult. To win a claim, you’ll need a good medical evaluation and evidence that the tinnitus was caused by an injury.  We will also have to show the injury was caused through someone else’s negligence.  You’ll definitely need a compassionate and experienced lawyer in your corner to fight for you.

What can a Central Illinois tinnitus injury lawyer do for you?

You already know that tinnitus can be devastating and that it can affect all aspects of your life.  You shouldn’t feel you have to deal with this by yourself.  I know the law and have experience dealing with personal injury cases involving tinnitus.  I understand the toll it can take on you and your family.  I’ll carefully listen to you to evaluate your situation, and if I take your case I can gather the evidence, help determine what caused your tinnitus and what parties are responsible, collect all the documents to fully assess your damages and losses, build your case, make a timely claim, and successfully resolve it in your favor. I can help with all of this so we can make a successful claim to make sure you get the resources you need for proper evaluation and treatment.  Most often, this can be done without going to court; I can usually negotiate for you to get a fair settlement on your behalf to make sure all your bills get paid.

How much will it cost to get professional legal help?

These cases can be difficult, but I don’t believe that costs should stand in the way of your ability to get legal help.  If I accept your case, I usually represent clients in these cases on a contingency fee basis.  That means that there are no charges to you upfront and I’m only paid from the settlement if and when I successfully obtain a recovery on your behalf.

A Decatur Tinnitus Attorney Could Help You Case

If you or someone you love suffered a tinnitus injury resulting in expensive medical bills and missed time from work, be sure to get in touch with a Decatur tinnitus injury lawyer. The sooner you contact me, the faster I can get to work for you and let you get back to your life.

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