Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a scenario of which one came first the chicken or the egg. You have a ringing in your ears. And it’s causing you to feel pretty low. Or, it’s possible you were feeling a little depressed before the ringing started. You’re just not certain which happened first.

That’s exactly what experts are trying to find out when it comes to the link between tinnitus and depression. It’s fairly well established that there is a link between tinnitus and depressive disorders. Many studies have shown that one often accompanies the other. But it’s much more challenging to recognize the exact cause and effect relationship.

Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to say that a precursor to tinnitus might be depression. Or, said another way: They noticed that you can sometimes recognize an issue with depression before tinnitus becomes apparent. As a result, it’s possible that we simply observe the depression first. This study indicates that if someone has been diagnosed with depression, it’s probably a good idea for them to have a tinnitus screening.

Shared pathopsychology could be the base cause of both disorders and the two are frequently “comorbid”. Which is just a technical way of saying that depression and tinnitus may have some common causes, and that’s why they show up together so frequently.

But in order to figure out what the common cause is, more research will be needed. 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 concurrently for different reasons. Currently, the relationships are just too murky to put too much confidence behind any one theory.

Will I Get Depression if I Have Tinnitus?

In part, cause and effect is hard to understand because major depressive conditions can happen for a large number of reasons. There can also be numerous reasons for tinnitus to happen. Tinnitus normally will cause a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Occasionally 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 won’t go away.

But chronic tinnitus can have more severe causes. Permanent ringing in the ears is sometimes caused by traumatic brain injury for instance. And tinnitus can happen sometimes with no apparent cause.

So will you develop depression if you have chronic tinnitus? The wide variety of causes behind tinnitus can make that difficult to know. But what seems fairly clear is that if you leave your tinnitus untreated, your chances will probably increase. The following reasons may help sort it out:

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

Dealing With Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression tells us, thankfully, is that by treating the tinnitus we might be able to offer some respite from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). From cognitive-behavioral therapy (which is created to help you disregard the sounds) to masking devices (which are made to drown out the sound of your tinnitus), the correct treatment can help you reduce your symptoms and stay centered on the things in life that bring you joy.

To put it in a different way, treatment can help your tinnitus diminish to the background. Meaning that you’ll be able to keep up more easily with social situations. You won’t miss out on your favorite music or have a tough time following your favorite TV program. And your life will have a lot less interruption.

Taking these measures won’t always stop depression. But managing tinnitus can help based upon research.

Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Apparent

Medical professionals are becoming more focused on keeping your hearing healthy because of this.

We’re pretty certain that depression and tinnitus are connected although we’re not sure exactly what the relationship is. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression started first, managing your tinnitus can help considerably. And that’s the crucial takeaway.

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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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