It’s a chicken-or-egg situation. There’s a ringing in your ears. And it’s causing you to feel pretty low. Or maybe before the ringing began you were already feeling somewhat depressed. Which one came first is simply not clear.
That’s precisely what scientists are trying to figure out regarding the link between tinnitus and depression. That there is a link between tinnitus and major depressive conditions is fairly well established. Many studies have borne out the notion that one often accompanies the other. But the cause-and-effect connection is, well, more difficult to detect.
Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?
One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to say that depression may be somewhat of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, said a different way: They noticed that you can at times identify a problem with depression before tinnitus becomes apparent. As a result, it’s feasible that we simply notice the depression first. This study suggests that if somebody has been diagnosed with depression, it’s probably a good idea for them to get a tinnitus screening.
The idea is that tinnitus and depression may share a common pathopsychology and be commonly “comorbid”. Which is just a fancy way of saying that tinnitus and depression may have some common causes, and that’s the reason why they show up together so frequently.
Of course, more research is needed to determine what that common cause, if there is one, truly is. Because it’s also possible that, in some cases, tinnitus results in depression; and in other cases, the opposite is true or they happen concurrently for different reasons. Currently, the relationships are just too unclear to put too much confidence behind any one theory.
Will I Get Depression if I Suffer From Tinnitus?
Major depressive disorders can develop from many causes and this is one reason it’s difficult to pin down a cause and effect relationship. There can also be a number of reasons for tinnitus to occur. In most cases, tinnitus manifests as a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Sometimes with tinnitus, you may hear other sounds such as a thumping or beating. Noise damage over a long period of time is normally the cause of chronic tinnitus that won’t go away.
But chronic tinnitus can have more serious causes. Long lasting ringing in the ears is sometimes caused by traumatic brain injury for instance. And tinnitus can happen sometimes with no recognizable cause.
So will you develop depression if you have chronic tinnitus? The variety of causes of tinnitus can make that challenging to predict. But it is evident that your chances increase if you ignore your tinnitus. The reason might be as follows:
- The buzzing and ringing can make social communication more difficult, which can cause you to socially separate yourself.
- For many individuals it can be an aggravating and draining task to attempt to deal with the sounds of tinnitus that won’t go away.
- It can be a difficulty to do things you love, like reading when you suffer from tinnitus.
Managing Your Tinnitus
Fortunately, the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression teaches us that we might be able to get respite from one by managing the other. You can reduce your symptoms and stay focused on the positive aspects of your life by addressing your tinnitus using treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you ignore the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).
To put it another way, treatment can help your tinnitus fade to the background. That means social situations will be easier to keep up with. You won’t lose out on your favorite music or have a difficult time following your favorite TV program. And you’ll see very little disturbance to your life.
That won’t prevent depression in all cases. But treating tinnitus can help according to research.
Don’t Forget, It’s Still Not Clear 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 tinnitus and depression, but we’re pretty certain that the two are connected. Whichever one started first, managing tinnitus can have a significant positive effect. And that’s why this information is important.