Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario. There’s a ringing in your ears. And it’s making you feel pretty low. Or maybe before the ringing began you were already feeling a bit depressed. You’re just not sure which started first.

When it comes to the connection between tinnitus and depression, that’s precisely what experts are trying to find out. It’s rather well established that there is a link between tinnitus and depressive disorders. Study after study has shown that one often accompanies the other. But the cause-and-effect relationship is, well, more difficult to detect.

Is Depression Caused by Tinnitus?

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

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

But in order to figure out what the common cause is, more research will be needed. Because, in certain situations, it may be possible that depression is actually brought about by tinnitus; in other circumstances the reverse is true and in yet others, the two occur at the same time but aren’t related at all. Right now, the relationships are just too unclear to put too much confidence in any one theory.

If I Have Tinnitus Will I Develop Depression?

Major depressive conditions can occur from many causes and this is one reason it’s difficult to pin down a cause and effect relationship. Tinnitus can also develop for many reasons. Tinnitus normally will cause a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Occasionally, the sound changes (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 won’t go away.

But there can be more severe causes for chronic tinnitus. Traumatic brain injuries, as an example, have been known to cause long lasting ringing in the ears. And tinnitus can occur sometimes with no evident cause.

So will you develop depression if you suffer from chronic tinnitus? The answer is a complicated one to predict because of the range of causes for tinnitus. But what seems pretty clear is that if you don’t treat your tinnitus, your chances will probably increase. The reason may be as follows:

  • The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it doesn’t go away by itself, can be a challenging and frustrating experience for some.
  • The ringing and buzzing can make social communication more difficult, which can cause you to socially isolate yourself.
  • It can be a difficulty to do things you love, like reading when you suffer from tinnitus.

Dealing With Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression clue us into, fortunately, is that by treating the tinnitus we might be able to offer some relief from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). From cognitive-behavioral therapy (which is created to help you disregard the sounds) to masking devices (which are created to drown out the sound of your tinnitus), the correct treatment can help you lessen your symptoms and stay focused on the things in life that bring you joy.

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 program. And you’ll see very little disturbance to your life.

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

Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Apparent

Medical professionals are becoming more serious about keeping your hearing healthy due to this.

We’re pretty certain that depression and tinnitus are related even though we’re not sure exactly what the relationship is. Whichever one began first, treating tinnitus can have a considerable positive effect. And that’s why this insight is important.

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