Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a situation of which one came first the chicken or the egg. You have some ringing in your ears. And it’s making you feel pretty low. Or, perhaps you were feeling somewhat depressed before that ringing started. You’re just not certain which happened first.

When it comes to the link between tinnitus and depression, that’s exactly what scientists are trying to figure out. It’s pretty well established that there is a link between tinnitus and depressive disorders. The notion that one tends to come with the other has been well established by numerous studies. But it’s far more difficult to understand the exact cause and effect relationship.

Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to contend that depression might be somewhat of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, to put it a different way: they observed that depression is commonly a more noticeable first symptom than tinnitus. It’s possible, as a result, that we simply notice depression first. This study suggests that if someone has been diagnosed with depression, it’s probably a good idea for them to get a tinnitus screening.

Shared pathopsychology may be the base cause of both disorders and the two are commonly “comorbid”. In other words, there may be some common causes between depression and tinnitus which would cause them to appear together.

Needless to say, more research is necessary to figure out what that common cause, if there is one, actually is. Because, in certain cases, it may be possible that depression is actually brought about by tinnitus; and in other circumstances, the reverse is true or they appear concurrently for different reasons. Currently, the connections are just too murky to put too much confidence behind any one theory.

Will I Experience Depression if I Have Tinnitus?

In part, cause and effect is difficult to understand because major depressive conditions can happen for a wide variety of reasons. Tinnitus can also occur for numerous reasons. Tinnitus will normally cause a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Sometimes with tinnitus, you will hear other noises including a thumping or beating. In most cases, 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, as an example, have been recognized to cause permanent ringing in the ears. And tinnitus can occur sometimes with no recognizable cause.

So if you have chronic tinnitus, will you develop depression? The wide range of causes of tinnitus can make that challenging to predict. But what seems quite clear is that if you don’t treat your tinnitus, your risks might increase. The following reasons may help sort it out:

  • The ringing and buzzing can make social communication harder, which can lead you to socially isolate yourself.
  • Tinnitus can make doing certain things you enjoy, like reading, challenging.
  • The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away by itself, can be a challenging and aggravating experience for many.

Treating Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression clue us into, luckily, is that by managing the tinnitus we may be able to give some relief from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). From cognitive-behavioral therapy (which is created to help you disregard the sounds) to masking devices (which are made to drown out the sound of your tinnitus), the right treatment can help you decrease your symptoms and stay centered on the things in life that bring you joy.

To put it in a different way, treatment can help your tinnitus fade to the background. That means social activities will be easier to keep up with. You will have a much easier time following your favorite TV show or listening to your favorite music. And you’ll find very little disturbance to your life.

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

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

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

We’re pretty confident that depression and tinnitus are linked even though we’re not certain exactly what the connection is. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression began first, treating your tinnitus can help considerably. And that’s why this insight is important.

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