Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a scenario of which came first the chicken or the egg. There’s a ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down about it. Or maybe before the ringing started you were already feeling somewhat depressed. You’re just not certain which started first.

That’s exactly what scientists are trying to figure out regarding the connection between depression and tinnitus. That there is a link between tinnitus and major depressive disorders is fairly well established. The notion that one often comes with the other has been well established by many studies. But it’s much more difficult to recognize the exact cause and effect relationship.

Is Depression Caused by Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to contend that depression may be something of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, to put it another way: They found that you can at times identify a problem with depression before tinnitus becomes apparent. As a result, it’s possible that we simply observe the depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anybody who has a screening for depression may also want to be tested for tinnitus.

Common pathopsychology might 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.

Needless to say, more research is needed to figure out what that common cause, if there is one, truly is. Because it’s also possible that, in some cases, tinnitus results in depression; in other situations the opposite is true and in yet others, the two occur at the same time but aren’t related at all. Right now, the connections are just too unclear to put too much confidence in any one theory.

Will I Get Depression if I Have Tinnitus?

Major depressive conditions can develop from numerous causes and this is one reason why it’s hard to recognize a cause and effect relationship. Tinnitus can also develop for a number of reasons. Tinnitus will normally cause a ringing or buzzing in your ears. At times, 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 short period of time, is the result of noise damage over a long period of time.

But there can be more serious causes for chronic tinnitus. Traumatic brain injuries, for example, have been recognized to cause permanent ringing in the ears. And tinnitus can happen sometimes with no obvious cause.

So if you suffer from chronic tinnitus, will you develop depression? The wide variety of causes of tinnitus can make that challenging to predict. But it is clear that your chances increase if you neglect your tinnitus. The following reasons may help make sense of it:

  • Tinnitus can make doing some things you take pleasure in, such as reading, challenging.
  • You might wind up socially separating yourself because the ringing and buzzing causes you to have difficulty with interpersonal communication.
  • The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it doesn’t go away on its own, can be a challenging and aggravating experience for some.

Managing Your Tinnitus

Luckily, the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression teaches us that we might be able to find respite from one by treating the other. You can lessen your symptoms and stay centered on the positive facets of your life by managing your tinnitus utilizing treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you overlook 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 activities. You won’t miss out on your favorite music or have a difficult time following your favorite TV show. And you’ll find very little disturbance to your life.

That won’t stop depression in all cases. But treating tinnitus can help based upon research.

Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Clear

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

At this point, we’re still in a chicken and egg situation with regards to depression and tinnitus, but we’re pretty confident that the two are related. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression started first, treating your tinnitus can help significantly. And that’s why this information is important.

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