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Traumatic Brain Injury - Effect on the Senses

Robert Karns

Traumatic brain injury can have a negative effect on a person's senses causing a loss or alteration of the senses of the victim.

Taste and Smell

The same force that causes a traumatic brain injury can cause damage to the olfactory nerves (cranial nerve I) that results in a change or loss in smell and/or taste. The olfactory nerves transfer sensations from the nose to the brain and travel into the skull in an area known as the cribriform plate. An impact with enough force to cause a brain injury can cause damage to the olfactory nerves in this area. Damage to the olfactory nerves can cause varied changes in the ability to smell and taste. A complete loss of sense of smell (anosmia), a diminished sense of smell (hyposmia) or a change in the sense of smell (parosmia). Likewise, it can cause a complete loss of sense of taste (ageusia), a diminished sense of taste (hypogeusia) or a change in the sense of taste (dysgeusia).

Hearing Problems and Hypersensitivity to Sound

The same force can cause damage to the vestibulocochlear nerves (cranial nerve VIII). This damage can cause the auditory system to become very sensitive to environmental noise and the traumatic brain injury victim may find great difficulty in going to restaurants, grocery stores or any social gathering. It becomes difficult to go out in public without feeling overwhelmed in noisy situations. There is a tremendous hypersensitivity to sound.

Vision Problems and Sensitivity to Light

The force can also cause damage to the optic nerve (cranial nerve II), oculomotor nerve (III) or the trochlear nerve (IV). Damage to any of these nerves can cause changes in vision. One common problem regarding this resulting from a traumatic brain injury is that of sensitivity to light. This is known as photosensitivity or photophobia. This causes an elevated sensitivity to light in the traumatic brain injury victim.

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