Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a situation of which came first the chicken or the egg. There’s a ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down because of it. Or maybe before the ringing started you were already feeling somewhat depressed. Which one came first is simply not certain.

When it comes to the connection between depression and tinnitus, that’s precisely what researchers are trying to find 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 many studies. But it’s far more difficult to recognize the exact cause and effect relationship.

Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to say 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 possible that we simply notice the depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anyone who undergoes screening for depression might also want to be tested for tinnitus.

The theory is that depression and tinnitus might share a common pathopsychology and be commonly “comorbid”. In other words, there could be some shared causes between tinnitus and depression which would cause them to appear together.

But in order to determine what the common cause is, more research will be required. Because it’s also possible that, in some circumstances, tinnitus triggers depression; and in other cases, the opposite is true or they occur simultaneously for different reasons. 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 Have Tinnitus Will I Develop Depression?

In part, cause and effect is hard to pin down because major depressive disorder can develop for a large number of reasons. Tinnitus can also occur for a number of reasons. In most cases, tinnitus manifests as a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Occasionally, the sound changes (a thump, a whump, a variety of other noises), but the root idea is the same. Usually, 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 acute causes for chronic tinnitus. Traumatic brain injuries, as an example, have been known to cause long lasting ringing in the ears. And at times, tinnitus can even develop for no discernible reason at all.

So will you experience depression if you suffer from chronic tinnitus? The wide range of causes of tinnitus can make that tough to know. But it is clear that your risks increase if you neglect your tinnitus. The following reasons may help make sense of it:

  • It can be a difficulty to do things you like, such as reading when you have tinnitus.
  • For many individuals it can be an aggravating and draining undertaking to attempt to cope with the sounds of tinnitus that won’t go away.
  • You might end up socially isolating yourself because the ringing and buzzing causes you to have problems with social communication.

Treating Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression tells us, thankfully, is that by managing the tinnitus we may be able to give some respite 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 utilizing treatments such as 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 will have a much easier time following your favorite TV program or listening to your favorite music. And your life will have much less interruption.

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

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

That’s why medical professionals are beginning to take a stronger interest in keeping your hearing in good condition.

We’re pretty certain that tinnitus and depression are related although we’re not certain exactly what the connection is. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression started first, managing your tinnitus can help considerably. And that’s why this insight is important.

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