Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a chicken-or-egg situation. You have some ringing in your ears. And it’s making you feel pretty low. Or perhaps before the ringing began you were already feeling somewhat depressed. Which one came first is simply not clear.

That’s precisely what experts are attempting to find out when it comes to the link between tinnitus and depression. That there is a connection between tinnitus and major depressive disorders is rather well established. Many studies have borne out the notion that one often accompanies the other. But it’s much more difficult to understand the exact cause and effect relationship.

Is Depression Caused by Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to contend that a precursor to tinnitus might be depression. Or, said a different way: they discovered that depression is frequently a more visible first symptom than tinnitus. It’s possible, as a result, that we just notice depression first. This research indicates that if somebody has been diagnosed with depression, it’s definitely a good idea for them to get a tinnitus screening.

The idea is that tinnitus and depression may share a common pathopsychology and be commonly “comorbid”. Which is just a fancy way of saying that tinnitus and depression might have some shared causes, and that’s why they appear together so frequently.

Clearly, more research is required to determine what that shared cause, if it exists, truly is. Because, in certain cases, it may be possible that depression is actually caused by tinnitus; and in other circumstances, the opposite is true or they happen simultaneously for different reasons. We can’t, right now, have much confidence in any one theory because we just don’t know enough about what the link is.

Will I Get Depression if I Have Tinnitus?

Major depressive conditions can occur from many causes and this is one reason why it’s hard to pin down a cause and effect relationship. Tinnitus can also occur for many reasons. Tinnitus usually will cause a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Occasionally with tinnitus, you may hear other sounds like a thumping or beating. Noise damage over a long period of time is usually the cause of chronic tinnitus that won’t go away.

But chronic tinnitus can have more serious causes. Permanent ringing in the ears can be caused by traumatic brain injury for example. And at times, tinnitus can even happen for no tangible reason at all.

So if you suffer from chronic tinnitus, will you develop depression? The wide range of causes of tinnitus can make that difficult to know. But what seems fairly clear is that if you don’t treat your tinnitus, your chances might increase. The following reasons might help make sense of it:

  • The noises of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away on its own, can be a challenging and frustrating experience for some.
  • The buzzing and ringing can make social communication harder, which can cause you to socially isolate yourself.
  • It can be a difficulty to do things you like, like reading when you suffer from tinnitus.

Treating Your Tinnitus

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

To put it another way, treatment can help your tinnitus fade to the background. That means you’ll be able to keep up more easily with social situations. You will have a much easier time following your favorite TV program or listening to your favorite tunes. And your life will have a lot less interruption.

That won’t eliminate depression in all situations. But treating tinnitus can help according to research.

Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Clear

Medical professionals are becoming more interested in keeping your hearing healthy due to this.

At this stage, we’re still in a chicken and egg scenario when it comes to depression and tinnitus, but we’re pretty certain that the two are linked. Whichever one began first, managing tinnitus can have a significant positive effect. 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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