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 a bit depressed before that ringing started. Which one came first is just not certain.

That’s exactly what experts are trying to find out regarding the link between depression and tinnitus. It’s fairly well established that there is a link between depressive disorders and tinnitus. The idea that one often comes with the other has been born out by many studies. But it’s far more challenging to recognize the exact cause and effect relationship.

Is Depression Caused by Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to contend that depression might be somewhat of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, stated another way: they discovered that depression is often a more visible first symptom than tinnitus. It’s possible, as a result, that we just notice depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers indicate that anyone who goes through a screening for depression might also want to be examined for tinnitus.

The theory is that depression and tinnitus 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 required to figure out what that common cause, if it exists, actually is. Because, in some cases, it might be possible that depression is actually brought about by tinnitus; and in other circumstances, the reverse is true or they appear simultaneously for different reasons. We can’t, at this point, have much confidence in any one theory because we simply don’t know enough about what the connection is.

Will I Get Depression if I Suffer From Tinnitus?

Major depressive disorders can develop from many causes and this is one reason it’s hard to recognize a cause and effect relationship. There can also be a number of reasons for tinnitus to manifest. In most cases, tinnitus manifests as a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Occasionally, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, a variety of other noises), but the underlying concept is the same. Noise damage over a long period of time is normally the cause of chronic tinnitus that is probably permanent.

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 obvious cause.

So will you experience depression if you have chronic tinnitus? The answer is a complicated one to predict because of the wide variety of causes for tinnitus. But it is evident that your risks will rise if you ignore your tinnitus. The reason might be as follows:

  • It can be a challenge to do things you love, such as reading when you suffer from tinnitus.
  • For many people it can be a frustrating and draining task to attempt to deal with the noises of tinnitus that won’t go away.
  • The ringing and buzzing can make social communication harder, which can lead you to socially separate yourself.

Dealing With Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression tells us, luckily, is that by managing the tinnitus we might be able to give some relief from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). You can minimize your symptoms and stay focused on the positive facets of your life by managing your tinnitus using treatments like 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 in a different way. Meaning that you’ll be able to keep up more easily with social situations. You won’t lose 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 steps won’t always prevent depression. But managing tinnitus can help according to research.

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

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

At this point, 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 linked. Whichever one started first, treating 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.