Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a scenario of which one came first the chicken or the egg. 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 somewhat depressed. You’re just not sure which started first.

That’s precisely what experts are trying to figure out regarding the link between tinnitus and depression. It’s fairly well established that there is a link between depressive disorders and tinnitus. Many studies have borne out the notion that one often accompanies the other. But the cause-and-effect relationship is, well, more challenging to determine.

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, to put it a different way: They noticed that you can at times identify an issue with depression before tinnitus becomes obvious. It’s likely, as a result, that we just notice depression first. This study suggests that if somebody has been diagnosed with depression, it’s probably a good idea for them to get a tinnitus screening.

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

But in order to figure out what the common cause is, more research will be needed. Because it’s also feasible that, in some cases, tinnitus results in depression; in other cases the opposite is true and in yet others, the two happen at the same time but aren’t connected at all. We can’t, right now, have much confidence in any one theory because we just don’t know enough about what the connection is.

Will I Get Depression if I Suffer From Tinnitus?

Major depressive conditions can develop from many causes and this is one reason it’s difficult to recognize a cause and effect relationship. There can also be quite a few reasons for tinnitus to manifest. Tinnitus will normally cause a buzzing or ringing in your ears. At times, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, a variety of other noises), but the main concept is the same. Noise damage over a long period of time is usually the cause of chronic tinnitus that is probably permanent.

But there can be more serious causes for chronic tinnitus. Long lasting ringing in the ears can be caused by traumatic brain injury for instance. And in some cases, tinnitus can even develop for no apparent reason whatsoever.

So will you develop depression if you suffer from chronic tinnitus? The wide range of causes behind tinnitus can make that challenging to know. But it is clear that your risks will rise if you ignore your tinnitus. The reason may be the following:

  • It can be a challenge to do things you love, such as reading when you have tinnitus.
  • You might 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 doesn’t go away on its own, can be a daunting and frustrating experience for many.

Dealing With Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus clue us into, luckily, is that by managing the tinnitus we might be able to offer some relief from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). You can minimize your symptoms and stay focused on the positive facets of your life by managing your tinnitus using treatments such as 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 social situations will be easier to stay on top of. You won’t lose out on your favorite music or have a tough time following your favorite TV show. And your life will have much less interruption.

That won’t prevent depression in all situations. But treating tinnitus can help based upon research.

Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Apparent

That’s why medical professionals are starting to take a more robust interest in keeping your hearing in good condition.

We’re pretty confident that tinnitus and depression are linked although we’re not sure exactly what the connection is. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression began first, managing your tinnitus can help significantly. 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.

Main Line Audiology Consultants, PC