Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario. There’s a ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down because of it. Or, perhaps you were feeling somewhat depressed before the ringing started. You’re just not certain which happened first.

That’s exactly what researchers are attempting to find out when it comes to the connection between tinnitus and depression. It’s pretty well established that there is a connection between tinnitus and depressive disorders. Study after study has shown that one often accompanies the other. But it’s far more difficult to comprehend the exact cause and effect relationship.

Is Depression Caused by Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to contend that a precursor to tinnitus might be depression. Or, to put it a different way: they observed that depression is commonly a more visible first sign than tinnitus. It’s likely, as a result, that we simply notice depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anybody who goes through a screening for depression may also want to be examined for tinnitus.

The idea is that tinnitus and depression may share a common pathopsychology and be commonly “comorbid”. In other words, there might be some common causes between tinnitus and depression which would cause them to appear together.

Of course, more research is needed to figure out what that common cause, if it exists, truly is. Because it’s also feasible that, in some cases, tinnitus triggers depression; in other circumstances the reverse is true and in yet others, the two appear at the same time but aren’t linked at all. Right now, the connections are just too unclear to put too much confidence in any one theory.

If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Experience Depression?

Major depressive conditions can develop from numerous causes and this is one reason why it’s hard to recognize a cause and effect relationship. There can also be numerous reasons for tinnitus to occur. Tinnitus will usually cause a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Sometimes, the sound changes (a thump, a whump, various other noises), but the main idea is the same. Noise damage over a long period of time is normally the cause of chronic tinnitus that won’t go away.

But chronic tinnitus can have more serious causes. Permanent ringing in the ears is sometimes caused by traumatic brain injury for instance. And tinnitus can happen sometimes with no obvious cause.

So will you develop depression if you have chronic tinnitus? The answer is a complicated one to predict because of the wide variety of causes for tinnitus. But what seems pretty clear is that if you leave your tinnitus untreated, your chances may increase. The reason may be as follows:

  • The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it doesn’t go away by itself, can be a challenging and frustrating experience for many.
  • It can be a difficulty to do things you like, such as reading when you have tinnitus.
  • You may wind up socially isolating yourself because the buzzing and ringing causes you to have trouble with social communication.

Dealing With Your Tinnitus

Luckily, the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression teaches us that we might be able to get respite from one by managing the other. You can reduce your symptoms and stay focused on the positive aspects of your life by managing your tinnitus making use of treatments including cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you ignore the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).

Treatment can move your tinnitus into the background, to put it another way. Meaning that you’ll be able to keep up more easily with social situations. You won’t lose out on your favorite music or have a difficult time following your favorite TV program. And your life will have a lot less disturbance.

Taking these steps won’t always stop depression. But research indicates that managing tinnitus can help.

Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Apparent

That’s why medical professionals are beginning to take a more robust interest in keeping your hearing in good condition.

At this juncture, we’re still in a chicken and egg scenario when it comes to tinnitus and depression, but we’re pretty certain that the two are related. Whichever one started first, treating tinnitus can have a significant positive effect. And that’s the important takeaway.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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