Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a chicken-or-egg situation. You have some ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down because of it. Or maybe before the ringing started you were already feeling a little depressed. Which one came first is simply not clear.

When it comes to the link between depression and tinnitus, that’s exactly what researchers are trying to figure out. It’s rather well established that there is a link between depressive disorders and tinnitus. Many studies have borne out the notion that one tends to accompany the other. But the cause-and-effect connection is, well, more difficult to discern.

Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to contend that depression might be somewhat of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, to put it a different way: They discovered that you can sometimes identify a problem with depression before tinnitus becomes obvious. It’s possible, as a result, that we just notice depression first. This study suggests that if someone has been diagnosed with depression, it’s probably a good idea for them to have a tinnitus screening.

The idea is that tinnitus and depression may share a common pathopsychology and be frequently “comorbid”. Which is just a technical way of saying that tinnitus and depression might have some common causes, and that’s the reason why they show up together so frequently.

But in order to identify what the common cause is, more research will be necessary. Because, in some situations, it may be possible that depression is actually caused by tinnitus; in other situations the opposite is true and in yet others, the two happen at the same time but aren’t connected at all. Currently, the connections are just too unclear to put too much confidence behind any one theory.

If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Develop Depression?

In part, cause and effect is hard to understand because major depressive disorder can happen for a large number of reasons. There can also be numerous reasons for tinnitus to occur. In most cases, tinnitus presents as a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Occasionally with tinnitus, you may hear other sounds like a thumping or beating. Normally, chronic tinnitus, the kind that doesn’t go away after a couple of hours or days, is the result of noise damage over a long period of time.

But chronic tinnitus can have more severe causes. Traumatic brain injuries, as an example, have been known to cause permanent ringing in the ears. And tinnitus can occur sometimes with no apparent cause.

So will you develop depression if you suffer from chronic tinnitus? The variety of causes of tinnitus can make that tough to know. But it is clear that your chances will rise if you ignore your tinnitus. The reason might be the following:

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

Dealing With Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus clue us into, thankfully, is that by treating the tinnitus we may be able to give some relief from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). You can reduce your symptoms and stay focused on the positive aspects of your life by addressing your tinnitus making use of treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you disregard the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).

To put it another way, treatment can help your tinnitus diminish to the background. 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 difficult time following your favorite TV program. And your life will have a lot less disturbance.

Taking these measures won’t always stop depression. But research reveals that treating tinnitus can help.

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

Medical professionals are becoming more serious about keeping your hearing healthy because of this.

We’re pretty confident that depression and tinnitus are related although we’re not sure exactly what the connection is. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression started first, treating your tinnitus can help considerably. And that’s why this insight 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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