The Connection Between Depression And Tinnitus


Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a chicken-or-egg situation. There’s a ringing in your ears. And it’s making you feel pretty low. Or, it’s possible you were feeling somewhat depressed before the ringing began. You’re just not certain which started first.

When it comes to the connection between depression and tinnitus, that’s precisely what researchers are trying to figure out. It’s fairly well established that there is a connection between depressive disorders and tinnitus. The idea that one tends to come with the other has been well established by numerous studies. But it’s much more difficult 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, to put it a different way: they discovered that depression is commonly a more noticeable first symptom than tinnitus. It’s possible, as a result, that we simply notice depression first. This study suggests that if somebody has been diagnosed with depression, it’s definitely a good idea for them to have a tinnitus screening.

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

Needless to say, more research is necessary to determine what that common cause, if there is one, truly is. Because it’s also possible that, in certain situations, tinnitus causes depression; in other situations the reverse is true and in yet others, the two occur at the same time but aren’t linked at all. Right now, the relationships are just too murky to put too much confidence behind any one theory.

Will I Get Depression if I Suffer From Tinnitus?

In part, cause and effect is tough to pin down because major depressive disorder can develop for a large number of reasons. There can also be numerous reasons for tinnitus to manifest. Tinnitus will usually cause a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Sometimes, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, a variety of other noises), but the root concept is the same. 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 serious causes. Permanent ringing in the ears is sometimes caused by traumatic brain injury for instance. And in some cases, tinnitus can even develop for no perceptible reason at all.

So if you have chronic tinnitus, will you experience depression? The answer is a difficult one to predict because of the wide array of causes for tinnitus. But what seems pretty clear is that if you leave your tinnitus untreated, your risks will probably increase. The following reasons might help sort it out:

  • You might end up socially separating yourself because the buzzing and ringing causes you to have trouble with interpersonal communication.
  • For many people it can be an aggravating and draining task to try and cope with the noises of tinnitus that won’t go away.
  • It can be a challenge to do things you like, like reading when you suffer from tinnitus.

Dealing With Your Tinnitus

Luckily, the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression teaches us that we may be able to get respite from one by managing the other. From cognitive-behavioral therapy (which is designed to help you ignore the sounds) to masking devices (which are made to drown out the sound of your tinnitus), the right treatment can help you minimize your symptoms and stay focused on the joy in your life.

To put it another way, treatment can help your tinnitus diminish to the background. That means you’ll be capable of keeping up more easily with social activities. You will have an easier time following your favorite TV show or listening to your favorite tunes. And your life will have much less disturbance.

That won’t prevent depression in all situations. But research indicates that treating tinnitus can help.

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

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

At this juncture, we’re still in a chicken and egg situation with regards to depression and tinnitus, but we’re pretty confident that the two are linked. Whichever one started first, managing tinnitus can have a considerable positive effect. 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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