The Link Between Tinnitus and Depression

Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

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

That’s exactly what scientists 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 conditions is rather well established. Many studies have shown that one tends to accompany the other. But the cause-and-effect relationship is, well, more difficult to discern.

Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to say that depression may be something of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, stated another way: they observed that depression is often a more visible first sign than tinnitus. As a result, it’s possible that we simply notice the depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers indicate that anybody who undergoes screening for depression may also want to be tested for tinnitus.

The idea is that tinnitus and depression might share a common pathopsychology and be frequently “comorbid”. Put another way, there may be some common causes between depression and tinnitus which would cause them to occur together.

Needless to say, more research is necessary to determine what that shared cause, if it exists, actually is. Because it’s also possible that, in some situations, tinnitus triggers depression; in other situations the opposite is true and in yet others, the two occur at the same time but aren’t connected at all. Currently, the relationships are just too murky to put too much confidence behind any one theory.

If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Experience Depression?

In part, cause and effect is hard to pin down because major depressive disorder can develop for a wide variety of reasons. There can also be numerous reasons for tinnitus to occur. Tinnitus will usually cause a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Sometimes with tinnitus, you may hear other noises such as a thumping or beating. Noise damage over a long period of time is usually the cause of chronic tinnitus that is probably permanent.

But chronic tinnitus can have more serious causes. Long lasting ringing in the ears is sometimes caused by traumatic brain injury for example. And sometimes, tinnitus can even develop for no apparent reason at all.

So if you suffer from chronic tinnitus, will you experience depression? The answer is a challenging one to predict because of the wide array of causes behind tinnitus. But what seems quite clear is that if you don’t treat your tinnitus, your chances will probably increase. The following reasons may help sort it out:

  • Tinnitus can make doing some things you love, like reading, difficult.
  • You might end up socially isolating yourself because the ringing and buzzing causes you to have problems with interpersonal communication.
  • The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away on its own, can be a daunting and frustrating experience for some.

Dealing With Your Tinnitus

Luckily, the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus teaches us that we may be able to get relief from one by treating the other. You can lessen 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 disregard the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).

Treatment can push your tinnitus into the background, to put it in a different way. That means social activities will be easier to stay on top of. You won’t miss out on your favorite music or have a difficult time following your favorite TV program. And your life will have a lot less disturbance.

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

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

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 with regards to tinnitus and depression, but we’re pretty certain that the two are related. Whichever one started first, treating tinnitus can have a considerable positive effect. And that’s why this information is important.

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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