It’s a situation of which came first the chicken or the egg. You have some 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. Which one came first is simply not certain.
When it comes to the connection between depression and tinnitus, that’s precisely what experts are attempting to find out. That there is a connection between tinnitus and major depressive conditions is pretty well established. The idea that one tends to come with the other has been born out by numerous studies. But the cause-and-effect relationship is, well, more difficult to determine.
Is Depression Caused by Tinnitus?
One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to contend that depression might be somewhat of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, said a different way: they discovered that depression is often a more noticeable first symptom than tinnitus. Consequently, it’s feasible that we simply observe the depression first. This study indicates that if someone has been diagnosed with depression, it’s definitely a good idea for them to have a tinnitus screening.
The idea is that depression and tinnitus might share a common pathopsychology and be commonly “comorbid”. In other words, there could be some shared causes between depression and tinnitus which would cause them to occur together.
But in order to determine what the common cause is, more research will be needed. Because it’s also possible that, in certain cases, tinnitus triggers depression; and in other situations, the opposite is true or they appear simultaneously for different reasons. Currently, the relationships are just too murky to put too much confidence in any one theory.
Will I Get Depression if I Have Tinnitus?
In part, cause and effect is tough to understand because major depressive disorder can develop for a large number of reasons. There can also be a number of reasons for tinnitus to occur. In many cases, tinnitus presents as a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Sometimes with tinnitus, you may hear other sounds including a thumping or beating. In most cases, chronic tinnitus, the kind that doesn’t go away after a short period of time, is the result of noise damage over a long period of time.
But there can be more acute causes for chronic tinnitus. Traumatic brain injuries, as an example, have been known to cause long lasting ringing in the ears. And at times, tinnitus can even develop for no apparent reason at all.
So if you have chronic tinnitus, will you develop depression? The wide range of causes of tinnitus can make that challenging to predict. But what seems fairly clear is that if you leave your tinnitus untreated, your risks will probably increase. The following reasons might help make sense of it:
- Tinnitus can make doing certain things you enjoy, like reading, challenging.
- You may end up socially isolating yourself because the ringing and buzzing causes you to have problems with interpersonal communication.
- The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away on its own, can be a daunting and frustrating experience for many.
Dealing With Your Tinnitus
What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression tells us, luckily, is that by treating the tinnitus we might be able to offer some respite from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). You can minimize your symptoms and stay centered on the positive facets of your life by addressing your tinnitus using treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you disregard the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).
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 show or listening to your favorite tunes. And your life will have a lot less interruption.
That won’t stop depression in all situations. But managing tinnitus can help based upon 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 tinnitus and depression are related although we’re not certain exactly what the relationship is. Whichever one began first, managing tinnitus can have a considerable positive effect. And that’s the important takeaway.