Hearing Health Blog

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It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario. You have some ringing in your ears. And it’s causing you to feel pretty low. Or, it’s possible you were feeling somewhat depressed before the ringing began. Which one came first is just not certain.

When it comes to the connection between tinnitus and depression, that’s exactly what experts are trying to figure out. It’s pretty well established that there is a link between tinnitus and depressive disorders. Many studies have shown that one tends to accompany 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 seems to say that a precursor to tinnitus may be depression. Or, stated a different way: they observed that depression is often a more visible first symptom than tinnitus. Consequently, it’s feasible that we simply observe the depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anyone who has a screening for depression might also want to be tested for tinnitus.

The idea is that depression and tinnitus may share a common pathopsychology and be frequently “comorbid”. In other words, there could be some common causes between depression and tinnitus which would cause them to occur together.

Clearly, more research is necessary to figure out what that common cause, if it exists, truly is. Because, in certain cases, it might be possible that depression is actually caused by tinnitus; in other circumstances the reverse is true and in yet others, the two appear at the same time but aren’t connected at all. We can’t, right now, have much confidence in any one theory because we simply don’t know enough about what the link is.

Will I Get Depression if I Suffer From Tinnitus?

In part, cause and effect is difficult to pin down because major depressive disorder can develop for a large number of reasons. Tinnitus can also occur for a number of reasons. In most cases, tinnitus manifests as a ringing or buzzing in your ears. At times, the sound changes (a thump, a whump, a variety of other noises), but the root idea is the same. Noise damage over a long period of time is usually the cause of chronic tinnitus that is probably permanent.

But there can be more acute causes for chronic tinnitus. Traumatic brain injuries, for example, have been known to cause long lasting ringing in the ears. And tinnitus can happen sometimes with no recognizable cause.

So will you develop depression if you have chronic tinnitus? The answer is a difficult one to predict because of the wide variety of causes for tinnitus. But what seems fairly clear is that if you leave your tinnitus untreated, your chances will probably increase. The reason might be the following:

  • You might wind up socially separating yourself because the ringing and buzzing causes you to have difficulty with social communication.
  • For many individuals it can be an aggravating and exhausting undertaking to try and cope with the sounds of tinnitus that won’t go away.
  • Tinnitus can make doing certain things you take pleasure in, such as reading, challenging.

Managing Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression tells us, thankfully, is that by treating the tinnitus we may be able to offer some respite from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). You can decrease your symptoms and stay focused on the positive facets of your life by addressing your tinnitus utilizing treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you ignore the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).

Treatment can push your tinnitus into the background, to put it another way. Meaning that 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 find very little interruption to your life.

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

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

Medical professionals are becoming more focused on keeping your hearing healthy due to this.

At this stage, we’re still in a chicken and egg situation when it comes to depression and tinnitus, but we’re pretty certain that the two are related. Whichever one began first, treating tinnitus can have a significant positive effect. And that’s the important takeaway.

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