Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario. You have some ringing in your ears. And it’s making you feel pretty low. Or, maybe you were feeling a little depressed before that ringing started. You’re just not sure which started first.

That’s precisely what experts are trying to figure out when it comes to the connection between tinnitus and depression. That there is a link between tinnitus and major depressive conditions is fairly well established. The idea that one often comes with the other has been born out by numerous studies. But it’s much more challenging to recognize 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 may be depression. Or, to put it a different way: They discovered that you can at times identify an issue with depression before tinnitus becomes apparent. 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 tested for tinnitus.

Shared pathopsychology could be the base cause of both disorders and the two are commonly “comorbid”. Which is just a technical way of saying that tinnitus and depression may have some shared causes, and that’s the reason why they appear together so frequently.

Needless to say, more research is required to determine what that shared cause, if it exists, actually is. Because, in certain cases, it might be possible that depression is actually brought about by tinnitus; in other circumstances the reverse is true and in yet others, the two occur at the same time but aren’t linked at all. Right now, the relationships are just too murky to put too much confidence behind any one theory.

If I Have Tinnitus Will I Experience Depression?

In part, cause and effect is tough to understand because major depressive disorder can develop for a wide variety of reasons. Tinnitus can also develop for many reasons. In most cases, tinnitus manifests as a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Occasionally, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, various other noises), but the root concept 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 severe causes. Permanent ringing in the ears is sometimes caused by traumatic brain injury for instance. And tinnitus can occur sometimes with no recognizable cause.

So if you have chronic tinnitus, will you develop depression? The answer is a complicated one to predict because of the wide array of causes for tinnitus. But what seems fairly clear is that if you don’t treat your tinnitus, your risks will probably increase. The following reasons might help make sense of it:

  • It can be a difficulty to do things you like, like reading when you have tinnitus.
  • The noises of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away on its own, can be a challenging and aggravating experience for many.
  • The ringing and buzzing can make interpersonal communication harder, which can lead you to socially separate yourself.

Treating Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression tells us, luckily, is that by managing the tinnitus we might be able to offer some respite from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). From cognitive-behavioral therapy (which is designed to help you disregard the sounds) to masking devices (which are made to drown out the sound of your tinnitus), the right treatment can help you lessen your symptoms and stay centered on the joy in your life.

Treatment can move your tinnitus into the background, to put it in a different way. Meaning that you’ll be capable of keeping up more easily with social situations. You will have a much easier time following your favorite TV show or listening to your favorite music. And your life will have much less disturbance.

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

Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Clear

Medical professionals are becoming more serious about keeping your hearing healthy due to this.

At this point, we’re still in a chicken and egg scenario when it comes to tinnitus and depression, but we’re pretty confident that the two are related. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression began first, managing your tinnitus can help considerably. And that’s the crucial 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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