It’s a chicken-or-egg situation. You have a ringing in your ears. And it’s causing you to feel pretty low. Or perhaps before the ringing started you were already feeling a bit depressed. Which one came first is simply not clear.
That’s precisely what scientists are trying to figure out when it comes to the connection between tinnitus and depression. That there is a connection between tinnitus and major depressive conditions is rather well established. Study after study has shown that one tends to accompany the other. But it’s far more challenging to understand the exact cause and effect relationship.
Is Depression Caused by 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 observed that depression is commonly a more visible first symptom than tinnitus. Consequently, it’s feasible that we simply observe the depression first. This study indicates that if somebody has been diagnosed with depression, it’s probably a good idea for them to have a tinnitus screening.
The idea is that tinnitus and depression may share a common pathopsychology and be commonly “comorbid”. In other words, there could be some common causes between depression and tinnitus which would cause them to appear together.
But in order to identify what the common cause is, more research will be needed. Because, in certain cases, it might be possible that depression is actually caused by tinnitus; and in other cases, the opposite is true or they appear concurrently for different reasons. We can’t, right now, have much confidence in any one theory because we simply don’t know enough about what the link is.
Will I Get Depression if I Have Tinnitus?
Major depressive conditions can develop from numerous causes and this is one reason it’s difficult to pin down a cause and effect relationship. There can also be a number of reasons for tinnitus to happen. In most cases, tinnitus manifests as a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Occasionally, the sound changes (a thump, a whump, a variety of other noises), but the main idea is the same. Usually, chronic tinnitus, the type that doesn’t go away after a couple of hours or days, is the result of noise damage over a long period of time.
But chronic tinnitus can have more severe causes. Permanent ringing in the ears is sometimes caused by traumatic brain injury for instance. And at times, tinnitus can even develop 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 tough to know. But it is evident that your chances increase if you ignore your tinnitus. The reason might be the following:
- Tinnitus can make doing some things you enjoy, such as reading, difficult.
- For some people it can be an annoying and draining undertaking to try and cope with the noises of tinnitus that won’t go away.
- You may wind up socially separating yourself because the ringing and buzzing causes you to have trouble with interpersonal communication.
Treating Your Tinnitus
What the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus tells us, thankfully, is that by treating the tinnitus we may be able to offer some relief from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). You can decrease your symptoms and stay focused on the positive facets of your life by addressing your tinnitus making use of treatments like 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 another way. Meaning that you’ll be able to keep up more easily with social activities. You won’t lose out on your favorite music or have a hard time following your favorite TV program. And you’ll find very little disturbance to your life.
That won’t prevent depression in all cases. But treating tinnitus can help according to research.
Don’t Forget, It’s Still Unclear What The Cause And Effect is
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 certain that the two are linked. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression started first, treating your tinnitus can help considerably. And that’s the important takeaway.