It’s a scenario of which one came first the chicken or the egg. You have some ringing in your ears. And it’s making you feel pretty low. Or, maybe you were feeling a bit depressed before the ringing started. You’re just not sure which started first.
That’s exactly what researchers are attempting to figure out regarding the connection between depression and tinnitus. It’s rather well established that there is a connection between depressive disorders and tinnitus. Many studies have shown that one often accompanies the other. But the cause-and-effect relationship is, well, more challenging to detect.
Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?
One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to say that depression may be somewhat of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, to put it a different way: They found that you can sometimes identify an issue with depression before tinnitus becomes obvious. Consequently, it’s feasible that we simply notice the depression first. This research indicates that if somebody has been diagnosed with depression, it’s definitely a good idea for them to get 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 appear together.
Of course, more research is required to figure out what that shared cause, if there is one, actually is. Because, in certain cases, it may be possible that depression is actually brought about by tinnitus; in other situations the opposite is true and in yet others, the two appear at the same time but aren’t related at all. Right now, the connections are just too unclear to put too much confidence in any one theory.
If I Have Tinnitus Will I Experience Depression?
Major depressive conditions can develop from many causes and this is one reason it’s hard to recognize a cause and effect relationship. There can also be a number of reasons for tinnitus to manifest. In most cases, tinnitus manifests as a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Occasionally with tinnitus, you may hear other sounds such as a thumping or beating. Normally, chronic tinnitus, the type 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 severe causes for chronic tinnitus. Permanent ringing in the ears is sometimes caused by traumatic brain injury for example. And tinnitus can happen sometimes with no evident cause.
So if you have chronic tinnitus, will you develop depression? The wide variety of causes behind tinnitus can make that difficult to predict. But it is clear that your risks will rise if you neglect your tinnitus. The following reasons might help sort it out:
- The noises of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away by itself, can be a challenging and aggravating experience for some.
- Tinnitus can make doing some things you enjoy, such as reading, challenging.
- You may wind up socially separating yourself because the ringing and buzzing causes you to have trouble with interpersonal communication.
Managing Your Tinnitus
What the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus clue us into, fortunately, is that by managing the tinnitus we may be able to offer some respite from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). You can lessen your symptoms and stay centered on the positive facets of your life by managing your tinnitus utilizing treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you ignore 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. 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 you’ll see very little disturbance to your life.
Taking these steps won’t always stop depression. But research suggests that managing tinnitus can help.
Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Apparent
That’s why medical professionals are starting to take a stronger interest in keeping your hearing healthy.
At this juncture, we’re still in a chicken and egg scenario when it comes to tinnitus and depression, but we’re pretty confident that the two are related. Whichever one started first, treating tinnitus can have a significant positive effect. And that’s the important takeaway.