Hearing Health Blog

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It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario. You have some ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down because of it. Or maybe before the ringing started you were already feeling a bit depressed. Which one came first is just not certain.

When it comes to the link between depression and tinnitus, that’s precisely what researchers are attempting to find out. It’s fairly well established that there is a connection between depressive disorders and tinnitus. The idea that one tends to come with the other has been born out by numerous 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, said another way: They noticed that you can sometimes identify a problem with depression before tinnitus becomes obvious. 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 definitely a good idea for them to have a tinnitus screening.

Shared pathopsychology might be the base cause of both disorders and the two are frequently “comorbid”. Which is just a technical way of saying that depression and tinnitus might have some shared causes, and that’s why they manifest together so often.

But in order to determine what the common cause is, more research will be needed. Because it’s also feasible that, in some cases, tinnitus triggers depression; in other situations the opposite is true and in yet others, the two appear at the same time but aren’t linked at all. Currently, the connections are just too murky to put too much confidence behind any one theory.

If I Have Tinnitus Will I Experience Depression?

Major depressive conditions can occur from many causes and this is one reason why it’s hard to recognize a cause and effect relationship. There can also be a number of reasons for tinnitus to occur. Tinnitus will usually cause a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Sometimes, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, various other noises), but the underlying 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 acute causes. Traumatic brain injuries, for example, have been recognized to cause long lasting ringing in the ears. And sometimes, tinnitus can even develop for no tangible reason at all.

So if you suffer from chronic tinnitus, will you develop depression? The answer is a challenging one to predict because of the variety of causes for tinnitus. But it is clear that your risks will rise if you neglect your tinnitus. The reason might be the following:

  • The ringing and buzzing can make interpersonal communication harder, which can lead you to socially isolate yourself.
  • The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away on its own, can be a daunting and aggravating experience for many.
  • Tinnitus can make doing certain things you take pleasure in, like reading, challenging.

Dealing With Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus clue us into, thankfully, is that by managing the tinnitus we may be able to offer some respite from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). From cognitive-behavioral therapy (which is designed 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 reduce your symptoms and stay centered on the joy in your life.

To put it another way, treatment can help your tinnitus fade to the background. That means social activities will be easier to keep up with. You will have an easier time following your favorite TV program or listening to your favorite tunes. And you’ll notice very little interruption to your life.

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

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

That’s why medical professionals are starting to take a more robust interest in keeping your hearing in good condition.

At this point, we’re still in a chicken and egg scenario with regards to tinnitus and depression, but we’re pretty certain 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.

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