It’s a chicken-or-egg situation. You have some ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down because of it. Or, maybe you were feeling a little depressed before that ringing started. You’re just not sure which happened first.
When it comes to the link between tinnitus and depression, that’s precisely what experts are attempting to figure out. It’s rather well established that there is a connection between tinnitus and depressive disorders. The idea that one tends to come with the other has been born out by many studies. But the cause-and-effect connection is, well, more difficult to discern.
Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?
One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to say that depression might be something of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, stated a different way: they found that depression is commonly a more visible first symptom than tinnitus. As a result, it’s possible that we simply observe the 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.
The idea is that depression and tinnitus might share a common pathopsychology and be frequently “comorbid”. Which is just a technical way of saying that tinnitus and depression may have some shared causes, and that’s the reason why they manifest together so frequently.
Clearly, more research is required to figure out what that shared cause, if it exists, actually is. Because it’s also feasible that, in some situations, tinnitus causes depression; and in other cases, the reverse is true or they occur concurrently for different reasons. We can’t, right now, have much confidence in any one theory because we just don’t know enough about what the link is.
If I Have Tinnitus Will I Develop Depression?
Major depressive disorders can occur from many causes and this is one reason why it’s difficult to pin down a cause and effect relationship. There can also be a number of reasons for tinnitus to happen. Tinnitus will usually cause a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Occasionally, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, various other noises), but the underlying idea is the same. In most cases, chronic tinnitus, the type that doesn’t go away after a couple of hours or days, is caused by noise damage over a long period of time.
But there can be more severe causes for chronic tinnitus. Traumatic brain injuries, for example, have been known to cause permanent ringing in the ears. And tinnitus can occur sometimes with no recognizable cause.
So if you have chronic tinnitus, will you experience depression? The wide range of causes of tinnitus can make that tough to predict. But what seems pretty clear is that if you don’t treat your tinnitus, your risks will probably increase. The following reasons might help sort it out:
- For some individuals it can be an annoying and exhausting undertaking to try and deal with the sounds of tinnitus that won’t go away.
- The buzzing and ringing can make social communication harder, which can cause you to socially isolate yourself.
- It can be a difficulty to do things you love, such as reading when you have tinnitus.
Treating Your Tinnitus
Fortunately, the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression teaches us that we may be able to get relief from one by treating the other. You can reduce your symptoms and stay focused on the positive facets of your life by managing your tinnitus making use of treatments including cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you overlook the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).
To put it in a different way, treatment can help your tinnitus diminish to the background. 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 tunes. And your life will have much less interruption.
That won’t stop depression in all cases. But research suggests that treating tinnitus can help.
Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Apparent
Medical professionals are becoming more serious about keeping your hearing healthy due to this.
At this stage, we’re still in a chicken and egg situation with regards to tinnitus and depression, but we’re pretty confident that the two are connected. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression began first, managing your tinnitus can help significantly. And that’s why this insight is important.