It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario. You have a ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down because of it. Or perhaps before the ringing started you were already feeling a bit depressed. You’re just not certain which started first.
That’s exactly what experts are attempting to find out regarding the link between depression and tinnitus. It’s pretty well established that there is a link between tinnitus and depressive disorders. Study after study has borne out the notion that one often accompanies the other. But it’s far more difficult to understand the exact cause and effect relationship.
Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?
One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to say that depression may be somewhat of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, to put it another way: They found that you can sometimes identify a problem with depression before tinnitus becomes apparent. It’s likely, as a result, that we just notice depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anybody who goes through a screening for depression might also want to be examined for tinnitus.
Shared pathopsychology could be at the root of both disorders and the two are commonly “comorbid”. Put another way, there may be some common causes between tinnitus and depression which would cause them to occur together.
Of course, more research is required to figure out what that common cause, if it exists, actually is. Because it’s also feasible that, in certain situations, tinnitus results in depression; and in other cases, the reverse is true or they happen 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 connection is.
If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Experience Depression?
Major depressive conditions can occur from numerous causes and this is one reason it’s difficult to pin down a cause and effect relationship. There can also be numerous reasons for tinnitus to manifest. Tinnitus will usually cause a ringing or buzzing in your ears. At times, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, a variety of other noises), but the root idea is the same. In most cases, chronic tinnitus, the type that doesn’t go away after a short period of time, is caused by noise damage over a long period of time.
But chronic tinnitus can have more acute causes. Permanent ringing in the ears can be caused by traumatic brain injury for example. And in some cases, tinnitus can even happen for no tangible reason at all.
So if you have chronic tinnitus, will you develop depression? The wide variety of causes behind tinnitus can make that challenging to predict. But what seems quite clear is that if you leave your tinnitus untreated, your risks may increase. The reason may be the following:
- The noises of the tinnitus, and the fact that it doesn’t go away on its own, can be a daunting and frustrating experience for some.
- It can be a challenge to do things you like, like reading when you have tinnitus.
- The buzzing and ringing can make interpersonal communication harder, which can lead you to socially separate yourself.
Managing Your Tinnitus
What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression tells us, fortunately, is that by managing the tinnitus we may be able to give some respite from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). You can decrease your symptoms and stay focused on the positive facets of your life by dealing with your tinnitus utilizing treatments including cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you disregard the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).
Treatment can move your tinnitus into the background, to put it in a different way. That means you’ll be capable of keeping up more easily with social situations. You won’t lose out on your favorite music or have a tough time following your favorite TV show. And you’ll notice very little disturbance to your life.
Taking these steps won’t always stop depression. But treating tinnitus can help based upon research.
Don’t Forget, It’s Still Not Clear What The Cause And Effect is
That’s why medical professionals are beginning to take a stronger interest in keeping your hearing healthy.
At this point, we’re still in a chicken and egg situation when it comes 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 considerably. And that’s why this insight is important.