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Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a situation of which one came first the chicken or the egg. You have a ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down about it. Or, perhaps you were feeling somewhat depressed before the ringing started. Which one came first is just not clear.

That’s precisely what researchers are attempting to figure out when it comes to the link between depression and tinnitus. It’s rather well established that there is a connection between depressive disorders and tinnitus. The notion that one tends to come with the other has been born out by many studies. 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 contend that depression might be something of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, stated another way: They noticed that you can sometimes recognize a problem with depression before tinnitus becomes apparent. It’s possible, as a result, that we simply notice depression first. This research indicates that if someone has been diagnosed with depression, it’s probably a good idea for them to have a tinnitus screening.

The theory is that depression and tinnitus might share a common pathopsychology and be commonly “comorbid”. Which is just a fancy way of saying that depression and tinnitus may 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 necessary. Because it’s also feasible that, in certain circumstances, tinnitus triggers depression; in other circumstances the opposite is true and in yet others, the two appear at the same time but aren’t linked at all. We can’t, at this point, have much confidence in any one theory because we just don’t know enough about what the link is.

Will I Experience Depression if I Suffer From Tinnitus?

Major depressive disorders can occur from numerous causes and this is one reason it’s tough to pin down a cause and effect relationship. Tinnitus can also occur for a number of reasons. In most cases, tinnitus manifests as a ringing or buzzing in your ears. In some cases with tinnitus, you will hear other sounds like a thumping or beating. Usually, chronic tinnitus, the kind that doesn’t go away after a couple of hours or days, is caused by noise damage over a long period of time.

But there can be more severe causes for chronic tinnitus. Permanent ringing in the ears can be caused by traumatic brain injury for instance. And tinnitus can occur sometimes with no evident cause.

So if you have chronic tinnitus, will you experience depression? The wide range of causes of tinnitus can make that difficult to know. But what seems fairly clear is that if you don’t treat your tinnitus, your chances may increase. The following reasons may help sort it out:

  • It can be a challenge to do things you love, such as reading when you have tinnitus.
  • The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away on its own, can be a challenging and frustrating experience for many.
  • You might end up socially separating yourself because the ringing and buzzing causes you to have trouble with social communication.

Treating Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression clue us into, luckily, is that by managing the tinnitus we may be able to give some respite from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). From cognitive-behavioral therapy (which is designed to help you disregard the sounds) to masking devices (which are created to drown out the noise of your tinnitus), the right treatment can help you minimize your symptoms and stay focused on the joy in your life.

To put it in a different way, treatment can help your tinnitus diminish to the background. That means social activities will be easier to stay on top of. You will have a much easier time following your favorite TV program or listening to your favorite music. And your life will have a lot less disturbance.

That won’t stop depression in all situations. But treating tinnitus can help according to 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 more robust interest in keeping your hearing in good condition.

We’re pretty certain that depression and tinnitus are linked although we’re not certain exactly what the connection is. Whichever one began first, managing tinnitus can have a considerable positive effect. And that’s the crucial takeaway.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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