It’s a chicken-or-egg situation. You have some ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down about it. Or maybe before the ringing started you were already feeling somewhat depressed. Which one came first is simply not clear.
That’s precisely what researchers are attempting to figure out regarding the connection between depression and tinnitus. It’s pretty well established that there is a link between tinnitus and depressive disorders. The notion that one often comes with the other has been born out by numerous studies. But the cause-and-effect connection is, well, more difficult to discern.
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, said a different way: they observed that depression is commonly a more visible first symptom than tinnitus. As a result, it’s feasible that we simply observe the depression first. This research indicates 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 could be some common causes between tinnitus and depression which would cause them to occur together.
Clearly, more research is required to determine what that common cause, if it exists, truly is. Because, in certain situations, it may be possible that depression is actually caused by tinnitus; in other cases the reverse is true and in yet others, the two occur at the same time but aren’t related at all. 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.
If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Experience Depression?
Major depressive disorders can occur from many causes and this is one reason why it’s difficult to pin down a cause and effect relationship. There can also be a number of reasons for tinnitus to occur. In many cases, tinnitus presents as a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Occasionally, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, various other noises), but the main idea is the same. Noise damage over a long period of time is normally the cause of chronic tinnitus that won’t go away.
But there can be more acute causes for chronic tinnitus. Permanent ringing in the ears is sometimes caused by traumatic brain injury for example. And tinnitus can happen sometimes with no recognizable cause.
So will you develop depression if you have chronic tinnitus? The answer is a difficult one to predict because of the wide variety of causes behind tinnitus. But it is evident that your risks increase if you ignore your tinnitus. The reason might be the following:
- The noises of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away by itself, can be a challenging and frustrating experience for many.
- You might end up socially separating yourself because the ringing and buzzing causes you to have difficulty with social communication.
- It can be a challenge to do things you like, such as reading when you suffer from tinnitus.
Managing Your Tinnitus
Fortunately, the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus teaches us that we may be able to get relief from one by managing the other. From cognitive-behavioral therapy (which is designed to help you overlook the sounds) to masking devices (which are created to drown out the sound of your tinnitus), the proper treatment can help you reduce your symptoms and stay centered on the things in life that bring you joy.
Treatment can move your tinnitus into the background, to put it another way. That means social activities will be easier to keep up with. You won’t miss out on your favorite music or have a difficult time following your favorite TV show. And your life will have a lot less disturbance.
That won’t eliminate depression in all situations. But research suggests that managing tinnitus can help.
Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Apparent
That’s why medical professionals are beginning to take a stronger interest in keeping your hearing in good condition.
We’re pretty certain that depression and tinnitus are related even though we’re not certain exactly what the connection is. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression started first, treating your tinnitus can help significantly. And that’s the crucial takeaway.