Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario. You have a ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down about it. Or, it’s possible you were feeling somewhat depressed before that ringing started. You’re just not sure which started first.

When it comes to the connection between depression and tinnitus, that’s exactly what scientists are trying to find out. That there is a link between tinnitus and major depressive disorders is rather well established. The notion 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 seems to contend that depression might be somewhat of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, to put it another way: They discovered that you can at times recognize an issue with depression before tinnitus becomes apparent. It’s possible, as a result, that we simply notice depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anyone who undergoes screening for depression may also want to be tested for tinnitus.

The theory is that depression and tinnitus may share a common pathopsychology and be frequently “comorbid”. Put another way, there may be some common causes between depression and tinnitus which would cause them to appear together.

Needless to say, more research is required to determine what that common cause, if there is one, actually is. Because it’s also feasible that, in some cases, tinnitus causes depression; and in other situations, the opposite is true or they appear concurrently for different reasons. Currently, the connections are just too murky to put too much confidence in any one theory.

If I Have Tinnitus Will I Develop Depression?

In part, cause and effect is difficult to pin down because major depressive conditions can happen for a wide variety of reasons. There can also be quite a few reasons for tinnitus to occur. In most cases, tinnitus presents as a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Sometimes, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, various other noises), but the root concept is the same. Noise damage over a long period of time is usually the cause of chronic tinnitus that is probably permanent.

But chronic tinnitus can have more serious causes. Traumatic brain injuries, for example, have been known to cause permanent ringing in the ears. And tinnitus can happen sometimes with no recognizable cause.

So will you experience depression if you suffer from chronic tinnitus? The answer is a complicated one to predict because of the variety of causes behind tinnitus. But it is evident that your chances will rise if you neglect your tinnitus. The following reasons might help sort it out:

  • Tinnitus can make doing some things you love, such as reading, challenging.
  • The ringing and buzzing can make interpersonal communication harder, which can cause you to socially isolate yourself.
  • For some people it can be a frustrating and exhausting task to try and deal with the sounds of tinnitus that won’t go away.

Dealing With Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression clue us into, fortunately, is that by managing the tinnitus we may be able to give some respite from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). From cognitive-behavioral therapy (which is created to help you overlook the sounds) to masking devices (which are made to drown out the noise of your tinnitus), the correct treatment can help you minimize your symptoms and stay focused on the joy in your life.

Treatment can move 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 tunes. And you’ll see very little disturbance to your life.

That won’t prevent depression in all cases. But managing tinnitus can help based upon research.

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 healthy.

We’re pretty confident that tinnitus and depression are connected even though we’re not certain exactly what the connection is. Whichever one began first, treating tinnitus can have a considerable positive effect. And that’s why this information 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.