Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a situation of which came first the chicken or the egg. There’s a ringing in your ears. And it’s causing you to feel pretty low. Or maybe before the ringing started you were already feeling somewhat depressed. Which one came first is just not certain.

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

Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to say that depression may be something of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, to put it a different way: they observed that depression is often a more visible first symptom 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 undergoes screening for depression might also want to be tested for tinnitus.

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

Clearly, more research is required to figure out what that shared cause, if there is one, actually is. Because, in some situations, it might be possible that depression is actually caused by tinnitus; and in other cases, the opposite is true or they occur simultaneously 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 connection is.

If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Develop Depression?

Major depressive conditions can occur from numerous causes and this is one reason it’s difficult to recognize a cause and effect relationship. Tinnitus can also occur for a number of reasons. Tinnitus normally will cause a ringing or buzzing in your ears. At times, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, various other noises), but the underlying idea is the same. Usually, chronic tinnitus, the type that doesn’t go away after a couple of hours or days, is caused by noise damage over a long period of time.

But there can be more severe causes for chronic tinnitus. Traumatic brain injuries, as an example, have been recognized to cause permanent ringing in the ears. And in some cases, tinnitus can even develop for no apparent reason at all.

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

  • The buzzing and ringing can make social communication more difficult, which can lead you to socially separate yourself.
  • The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it doesn’t go away by itself, can be a daunting and aggravating experience for many.
  • Tinnitus can make doing some things you take pleasure in, like reading, challenging.

Treating Your Tinnitus

Luckily, the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus teaches us that we might be able to find respite from one by managing the other. You can minimize your symptoms and stay focused on the positive facets of your life by dealing with your tinnitus using treatments including cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you overlook the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).

Treatment can push your tinnitus into the background, to put it another way. 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 show or listening to your favorite music. And you’ll notice very little disturbance to your life.

Taking these steps won’t always prevent depression. 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 stage, 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 linked. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression started first, managing your tinnitus can help significantly. And that’s why this information is important.

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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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