The Connection Between Tinnitus And Depression

Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario. You have a 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 certain which started first.

That’s exactly what researchers are attempting to figure out when it comes to the connection between depression and tinnitus. It’s fairly well established that there is a connection between depressive disorders and tinnitus. Study after study has shown that one often accompanies the other. But the cause-and-effect relationship is, well, more challenging to determine.

Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to contend that a precursor to tinnitus might be depression. Or, to put it another way: they discovered that depression is frequently a more noticeable first sign than tinnitus. As a result, it’s feasible that we simply observe the depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers indicate that anyone who has a screening for depression might also want to be examined for tinnitus.

Shared pathopsychology could be the base cause of both disorders and the two are commonly “comorbid”. Put another way, there might be some shared causes between tinnitus and depression which would cause them to occur together.

But in order to figure out what the common cause is, more research will be needed. Because it’s also feasible that, in certain situations, tinnitus results in depression; and in other circumstances, the opposite is true or they happen concurrently for different reasons. We can’t, at this point, have much confidence in any one theory because we just don’t know enough about what the link is.

Will I Experience Depression if I Suffer From Tinnitus?

In part, cause and effect is tough to pin down because major depressive conditions can happen for a wide variety of reasons. There can also be a number of reasons for tinnitus to occur. In most cases, tinnitus presents as a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Occasionally, the sound changes (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 there can be more acute causes for chronic tinnitus. Permanent ringing in the ears can be caused by traumatic brain injury for example. And tinnitus can occur sometimes with no recognizable cause.

So if you have chronic tinnitus, will you develop depression? The wide variety of causes of tinnitus can make that difficult to predict. But it is evident that your risks increase if you neglect your tinnitus. The following reasons may help make sense of it:

  • You might wind up socially isolating yourself because the buzzing and ringing causes you to have problems with social communication.
  • For many people it can be a frustrating and exhausting undertaking to try and cope with the noises of tinnitus that won’t go away.
  • Tinnitus can make doing some things you love, such as reading, challenging.

Managing Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression tells us, luckily, is that by treating the tinnitus we might be able to give some relief from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). You can minimize your symptoms and stay focused on the positive aspects of your life by managing your tinnitus using treatments including cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you disregard the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).

Treatment can move your tinnitus into the background, to put it another way. That means you’ll be able to keep up more easily with social activities. You won’t miss out on your favorite music or have a tough time following your favorite TV show. And your life will have much less disturbance.

That won’t stop depression in all cases. But treating tinnitus can help based upon research.

Don’t Forget, It’s Still Unclear What The Cause And Effect is

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

At this juncture, we’re still in a chicken and egg scenario with regards to tinnitus and depression, but we’re pretty confident that the two are connected. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression began first, treating your tinnitus can help significantly. And that’s why this information is important.

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