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Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a scenario of which came first the chicken or the egg. You have a ringing in your ears. And it’s making you feel pretty low. Or, perhaps you were feeling a bit depressed before that ringing began. Which one came first is just not clear.

That’s precisely what experts are trying to find out when it comes to the connection between depression and tinnitus. It’s pretty well established that there is a connection between tinnitus and depressive disorders. Study after study has shown that one tends to accompany the other. But it’s much more difficult to comprehend the exact cause and effect relationship.

Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to contend that depression may be somewhat of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, to put it another way: They discovered that you can sometimes identify a problem with depression before tinnitus becomes apparent. Consequently, it’s feasible that we simply observe the depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers indicate that anyone who has a screening for depression might also want to be examined for tinnitus.

The theory is that tinnitus and depression may share a common pathopsychology and be frequently “comorbid”. In other words, there may be some common causes between tinnitus and depression which would cause them to occur together.

But in order to determine what the common cause is, more research will be required. Because it’s also possible that, in some cases, tinnitus causes depression; in other cases the opposite is true and in yet others, the two happen at the same time but aren’t linked at all. Currently, the connections are just too murky to put too much confidence behind any one theory.

If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Develop Depression?

In part, cause and effect is tough to understand because major depressive conditions can happen for a wide variety of reasons. Tinnitus can also develop for a number of reasons. In most cases, tinnitus presents as a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Sometimes with tinnitus, you may hear other noises like a thumping or beating. Normally, 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 chronic tinnitus can have more serious causes. Long lasting ringing in the ears is sometimes caused by traumatic brain injury for example. And in some cases, tinnitus can even happen for no perceptible reason at all.

So will you develop depression if you have chronic tinnitus? The wide range of causes behind tinnitus can make that challenging to predict. But what seems pretty clear is that if you leave your tinnitus untreated, your chances will probably increase. The reason may be the following:

  • The ringing and buzzing can make social communication more difficult, which can cause you to socially separate yourself.
  • It can be a difficulty to do things you love, like reading when you have tinnitus.
  • The noises of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away by itself, can be a challenging and frustrating experience for some.

Dealing With Your Tinnitus

Fortunately, the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus teaches us that we might be able to get relief from one by treating the other. 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 correct treatment can help you lessen 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 you’ll be able to keep up more easily with social situations. You won’t lose out on your favorite music or have a hard time following your favorite TV show. And you’ll notice very little disturbance to your life.

That won’t eliminate depression in all cases. But research indicates that managing tinnitus can help.

Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Apparent

Medical professionals are becoming more focused on keeping your hearing healthy due to this.

We’re pretty certain that tinnitus and depression are connected even though we’re not sure exactly what the relationship is. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression began first, treating your tinnitus can help significantly. And that’s why this information is important.

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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.