Brain Injury: Speech, Hearing, and Vision Problems
Depending on the location and severity of a head injury, speech and language skills may be impacted. Hearing and vision are also often affected, but this can go unnoticed in the initial days and weeks as the patient and caregivers focus on life-threatening issues first.
Speech and Language Problems
Several areas of the body function together to make speech, from the facial muscles to the vocal cords, the respiratory muscles, and the larynx. Damage to the area of the brain or nerves that control any one of these functions can impact speech ability.
It’s important to have a comprehensive evaluation after an accident or medical malpractice so that rehab can be targeted to this specific patient’s needs. It’s also important that rehab begin immediately. Recovery includes speech-language therapy, which is best delivered by those experienced in brain injuries.
The recovery process for brain-injured patients can be complicated by the other aspects of the injury. Speech therapy, just like some other physical injuries, requires a great deal of concentration; this can be difficult for head-injured patients who are frequently agitated, have headaches, are taking medication that can may make them drowsy.
Therapy will generally focus on two areas: (1) Restoring speech and language abilities, and (2) simultaneously learning new forms of communication, such as using writing boards, or typing with keyboards.
Hearing is frequently damaged by a head injury. The problem can come from direct damage to the mechanical parts of the ear, such as the inner ear or the temporal lobes, or from neurological damage.
Symptoms can include:
- Tinnitus in one or both ears
- Change in sound tolerance ranges
- Loss of hearing on one or both sides
Hearing problems may appear weeks or months after the brain injury. Some are there from the start and are noticed when they don’t go away, some will appear later, and some symptoms will worsen.
Patients and families may need to insist on getting an auditory evaluation. A comprehensive exam and screening need to be conducted to determine the underlying condition.
Vision can be damaged by the injury itself, or from infections or damage during recovery and treatment. Problems can stem from damage to the cornea to the nerve fibers that carry signals from the retina in the eye to the brain, or to the visual cortex.
More than 50% of brain injury survivors may experience vision disorders. These can include loss of visual acuity, problems with visual processing, double vision, visual field loss, visual balance disorders, problems with eyes coordinating, and spatial perception deficits.
Some visual problems can be resolved or improved with rehabilitation. Patients can learn new techniques to get around limitations, and also some conditions can be helped with glasses, magnifiers or other tools.
For any problems with speech, hearing or vision, consider these three points:
- Get the proper screening – It’s vital that comprehensive exams be given by trained medical personnel. For example, military doctors have now realized that about one in three troops with moderate to severe TBI also have some vision disorder. The military is now making it policy at VA hospitals that TBI patients be given a mandatory vision screening.
- Document everything – Document the results of all exams and all medical notes, records, and visits. It helps to simply keep a notebook as a daily log. This will aid in treatment, and also aid in the legal process if someone else is liable for the injury. When it comes time to settle a legal claim, often the other side’s insurance company will try to minimize your injuries and pressure you to settle early and for a low amount.
- Support groups – Survivors may want to consider participating in brain injury support groups. These groups provide an opportunity for social interaction in a supportive environment as you are regaining your communication abilities.
Virginia Brain Injury Lawyer
If you’ve sustained a brain injury because of an accident that was caused by someone else, you may want to contact a brain injury lawyer. While we cannot change what has happened to you, we can help you to obtain compensation for the proper medical care you need now and may need in the future.