There is a common misconception that hearing loss is something that only happens to older people. While aging is a primary factor in becoming “hard of hearing,” there is a number of reasons why a person might lose their hearing. This includes a traumatic event, such as an auto accident.
A partial or complete loss of your hearing can be devastating, particularly because the effects are often permanent. If you have experienced this type of injury, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of moving forward with life with a disability, while also trying to handle mounting medical bills and other expenses.
If the crash was caused by another driver, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. A skilled Washington, D.C. car accident lawyer can help. Read on to learn more about how hearing loss can happen after a motor vehicle collision, and what damages you may be able to recover as a result.
How Can a Car Crash Cause Hearing Loss?
The ear is made up of three main components: the outer, middle and inner ear. The outer ear is tasked with capturing sound vibrations. These vibrations are then sent to the middle ear, which contains the eardrum and three small bones: the hammer, anvil, and stirrup.
The sound causes the eardrum to vibrate and the three small bones to vibrate, and the energy of the sound wave is carried to the inner ear. Within the inner ear lies the cochlea, which is a snail-shaped chamber filled with fluid and tiny hair cells. These hair cells detect the motion of the fluid, convert the motion into electrical signals, and transmit the signals to the brain.
For most people, hearing loss occurs over time due to a combination of age and exposure to loud noises. This is generally due to wear and tear on the nerve cells in the inner ear, which sends sound signals to the brain. When these nerve cells are damaged or destroyed, these signals are not transmitted as well, and hearing loss occurs.
However, hearing loss can happen in other ways as well — including from a traumatic injury. According to the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), sensorineural hearing loss occurs when components of the inner ear are damaged. One of the causes of this type of hearing loss is head trauma.
When a person suffers sensorineural hearing loss, the compartment that contains the fluid in the inner ear may rupture or leak. This can be toxic to the inner ear. Emergency surgery may be an option to treat the injury if it is diagnosed in time.
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) may cause damage to any part of the auditory pathway. Injury most often occurs to the tympanic membrane, middle ear, and cochlea. The hair cells within the cochlea are the most vulnerable to this type of trauma; if injured, a person may suffer sensorineural hearing loss.
Because the ear is a relatively delicate structure, any type of sudden or severe injury to the head could potentially cause related damage to the ear. The two most common causes of hearing loss after a car accident are:
- Any type of head injury, such as from a head hitting a steering wheel, windshield, or other objects
- Airbag deployment: up to 17% of people will suffer permanent hearing loss from airbag deployment
Importantly, these types of injuries may cause other damage beyond hearing loss. This may include difficulty distinguishing voices (particularly in noisy environments), muffled hearing, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), an itchy, burning or painful sensation in the ears, and/or dizziness.
What Damages May Be Available for Hearing Loss After an Auto Accident?
Any type of injury after a car accident can be devastating. Hearing loss can be particularly hard to recover from, as it is one of the senses that most of us rely upon to navigate our daily lives and perform essential tasks. Depending on the severity of your injury, you may be entitled to substantial compensation.
Hearing loss after a crash may be temporary and resolved with relatively conservative treatment. In many cases, this type of hearing loss is permanent, and the only possible option to correct it is emergency surgery. If the damage cannot be fixed, you may have to rely on hearing aids or other devices for the rest of your life.
Medical expenses related to hearing loss can be significant. For many people, any type of hearing loss will also impact other areas of their life, such as their ability to work and even their relationships. A skilled Washington, DC personal injury attorney will take all of these factors into account when putting together a demand for compensation.
There are two main types of damages that you may be entitled to in a personal injury case: economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages cover those losses that are more readily quantified, such as lost wages and past and future medical expenses. Non-economic damages are meant to compensate you for losses that are harder to put a number on, such as loss of enjoyment of life or pain and suffering.
It is often challenging to come up with a dollar amount that represents something as profound as how your life has been negatively impacted due to your injuries — especially with something as life-changing as hearing loss. This is where the experience of your lawyer comes into play. He or she will use their knowledge of similar cases that have settled or gone to trial in the area to help them put together a solid claim for damages.
There is a third type of damages that may be available. Punitive damages are meant to punish wrongdoers and/or to deter others from engaging in similar conduct. Although it is possible to receive an award for punitive damages, it is rare in personal injury cases, which typically involve questions of negligence rather than intentional actions.
Questions? Contact Us Today.
If you have suffered hearing loss as a result of a car accident, you may be anxious and worried about your future. We are here to help. At Patrick Malone & Associates, we work hard to get results for our clients.
Our firm is dedicated to helping people like you get justice after an accident. We understand how challenging this time can be, which is why we are committed to advocating for you throughout the process. To learn more or to schedule a free initial consultation with a Washington, D.C. car accident lawyer, call us at 202-742-1500 or contact us online.