Hearing Health Blog

Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a chicken-or-egg situation. There’s a ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down because of it. Or, perhaps you were feeling somewhat depressed before that ringing started. Which one came first is just not clear.

When it comes to the link between depression and tinnitus, that’s exactly what scientists are trying to figure out. It’s rather well established that there is a link between depressive disorders and tinnitus. Many studies have shown that one often accompanies the other. But the cause-and-effect relationship is, well, more difficult to discern.

Is Depression Caused by Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to say that a precursor to tinnitus might be depression. Or, stated another way: They discovered that you can at times identify a problem with depression before tinnitus becomes obvious. Consequently, it’s feasible that we simply notice the depression first. This study indicates that if somebody has been diagnosed with depression, it’s probably a good idea for them to have a tinnitus screening.

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

But in order to figure out what the common cause is, more research will be required. Because, in certain cases, it may be possible that depression is actually brought about by tinnitus; in other circumstances the opposite is true and in yet others, the two happen at the same time but aren’t linked at all. We can’t, right now, have much confidence in any one theory because we simply don’t know enough about what the connection is.

If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Develop Depression?

Major depressive disorders can develop from many causes and this is one reason why it’s tough to pin down a cause and effect relationship. There can also be a number of reasons for tinnitus to occur. Tinnitus will usually cause a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Sometimes, the sound changes (a thump, a whump, a variety of other noises), but the underlying idea is the same. Normally, chronic tinnitus, the kind that doesn’t go away after a couple of hours or days, is caused by noise damage over a long period of time.

But there can be more serious causes for chronic tinnitus. Permanent ringing in the ears can be caused by traumatic brain injury for example. And tinnitus can occur sometimes with no obvious cause.

So if you suffer from chronic tinnitus, will you develop depression? The answer is a complicated one to predict because of the wide variety of causes for tinnitus. But it is clear that your risks will rise if you neglect your tinnitus. The reason might be the following:

  • The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it doesn’t go away by itself, can be a daunting and frustrating experience for many.
  • The ringing and buzzing can make interpersonal communication harder, which can lead you to socially isolate yourself.
  • Tinnitus can make doing certain things you love, like reading, difficult.

Treating Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression clue us into, luckily, is that by managing the tinnitus we might be able to give 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 created to drown out the noise of your tinnitus), the correct treatment can help you reduce your symptoms and stay centered on the joy in your life.

Treatment can push your tinnitus into the background, to put it another way. That means social activities will be easier to stay on top of. You will have an easier time following your favorite TV program or listening to your favorite music. And you’ll see very little disturbance to your life.

Taking these steps won’t always prevent depression. But research suggests that treating tinnitus can help.

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

That’s why medical professionals are starting to take a more robust interest in keeping your hearing healthy.

We’re pretty certain that depression and tinnitus are linked although we’re not certain exactly what the relationship is. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression began first, managing your tinnitus can help considerably. And that’s why this information 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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