Audiology & Hearing Care of SWFL - Bonita Springs, FL

Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a scenario of which one came first the chicken or the egg. There’s a 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 just not clear.

That’s exactly what researchers are attempting to find out when it comes to the link between depression and tinnitus. That there is a link between tinnitus and major depressive conditions is fairly well established. The notion that one tends to come with the other has been born out by numerous 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 a precursor to tinnitus might be depression. Or, stated another way: They found that you can at times recognize a problem with depression before tinnitus becomes obvious. It’s possible, as a result, that we just notice depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anyone who goes through a screening for depression might also want to be tested for tinnitus.

Common pathopsychology may be at the root of both disorders and the two are commonly “comorbid”. Which is just a fancy way of saying that depression and tinnitus might have some shared causes, and that’s why they appear together so often.

But in order to determine what the common cause is, more research will be required. Because it’s also possible that, in certain circumstances, tinnitus triggers depression; in other situations the reverse is true and in yet others, the two happen at the same time but aren’t linked at all. We can’t, right now, have much confidence in any one theory because we just don’t know enough about what the connection is.

If I Have Tinnitus Will I Develop Depression?

In part, cause and effect is tough to pin down because major depressive disorder can happen for a large number of reasons. Tinnitus can also develop for many reasons. In most cases, tinnitus presents as a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Sometimes, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, a variety of other noises), but the main idea is the same. Noise damage over a long period of time is usually the cause of chronic tinnitus that is probably permanent.

But there can be more serious causes for chronic tinnitus. Long lasting ringing in the ears can be caused by traumatic brain injury for instance. And sometimes, tinnitus can even happen for no discernible reason whatsoever.

So will you experience depression if you have chronic tinnitus? The answer is a complicated one to predict because of the wide variety of causes behind tinnitus. But what seems quite clear is that if you leave your tinnitus untreated, your risks might increase. The reason might be the following:

  • You may end up socially isolating yourself because the ringing and buzzing causes you to have difficulty with interpersonal communication.
  • Tinnitus can make doing some things you take pleasure in, like reading, challenging.
  • For some individuals it can be an aggravating and exhausting task to try and cope with the sounds of tinnitus that won’t go away.

Dealing With Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression clue us into, thankfully, is that by treating the tinnitus we may be able to give some relief from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). You can decrease your symptoms and stay focused on the positive aspects of your life by addressing your tinnitus utilizing treatments like 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 another way. Meaning that you’ll be able to keep up more easily with social activities. You will have an easier time following your favorite TV show or listening to your favorite music. And your life will have much less interruption.

Taking these steps won’t always prevent depression. But treating tinnitus can help based upon research.

Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Clear

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

At this point, we’re still in a chicken and egg situation when it comes to depression and tinnitus, but we’re pretty certain that the two are related. Whichever one began first, managing tinnitus can have a significant 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.