Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a chicken-or-egg situation. You have some ringing in your ears. And it’s making you feel pretty low. Or, maybe you were feeling somewhat depressed before the ringing started. Which one came first is just not certain.

That’s exactly what researchers are attempting to figure out when it comes to the link between tinnitus and depression. That there is a connection between tinnitus and major depressive conditions is fairly well established. The idea that one tends to come with the other has been born out by many studies. But the cause-and-effect relationship is, well, more difficult to detect.

Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to contend that a precursor to tinnitus may be depression. Or, said another way: they found that depression is often a more visible first symptom than tinnitus. It’s possible, as a result, that we simply notice depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anybody who undergoes screening for depression might also want to be examined for tinnitus.

Shared pathopsychology may be at the root of both disorders and the two are frequently “comorbid”. Put another way, there may be some shared causes between tinnitus and depression which would cause them to occur together.

Clearly, more research is necessary to figure out what that common cause, if it exists, actually is. Because, in some cases, it may be possible that depression is actually caused by tinnitus; and in other cases, the opposite is true or they happen concurrently for different reasons. Right now, the connections are just too unclear to put too much confidence in any one theory.

Will I Experience Depression if I Suffer From Tinnitus?

In part, cause and effect is hard to pin down because major depressive conditions can happen for a large number of reasons. Tinnitus can also occur for numerous reasons. Tinnitus normally will cause a ringing or buzzing in your ears. In some cases with tinnitus, you will hear other noises including a thumping or beating. Noise damage over a long period of time is usually the cause of chronic tinnitus that is probably permanent.

But there can be more acute causes for chronic tinnitus. Long lasting ringing in the ears is sometimes caused by traumatic brain injury for example. And in some cases, tinnitus can even develop for no apparent reason at all.

So will you develop depression if you have chronic tinnitus? The answer is a difficult one to predict because of the wide array of causes for tinnitus. But what seems fairly clear is that if you leave your tinnitus untreated, your risks may increase. The reason might be the following:

  • The ringing and buzzing can make social communication more difficult, which can lead you to socially separate yourself.
  • For some people it can be a frustrating and exhausting undertaking to attempt to deal with the sounds of tinnitus that won’t go away.
  • It can be a difficulty to do things you enjoy, like reading when you suffer from tinnitus.

Dealing With Your Tinnitus

Luckily, the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression teaches us that we might be able to get relief from one by treating the other. You can minimize your symptoms and stay focused on the positive facets of your life by dealing with your tinnitus utilizing treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you overlook the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).

Treatment can move your tinnitus into the background, to put it in a different way. That means social situations will be easier to keep up with. You won’t miss out on your favorite music or have a tough time following your favorite TV show. And you’ll see very little interruption 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 Unclear What The Cause And Effect is

Medical professionals are becoming more interested in keeping your hearing healthy due to this.

At this point, we’re still in a chicken and egg situation with regards to tinnitus and depression, but we’re pretty confident that the two are related. Whichever one started first, managing tinnitus can have a considerable positive effect. And that’s why this insight is important.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.