It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario. There’s a ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down because of it. Or, maybe you were feeling a little depressed before that ringing started. You’re just not certain which started first.
When it comes to the connection between tinnitus and depression, that’s precisely what experts are trying to find out. That there is a connection between tinnitus and major depressive disorders is pretty well established. Study after study has borne out the notion that one tends to accompany the other. But the cause-and-effect connection is, well, more difficult to determine.
Is Depression Caused by Tinnitus?
One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to say that depression might be something of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, stated another way: They discovered that you can sometimes recognize a problem with depression before tinnitus becomes obvious. It’s possible, as a result, that we just notice depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers indicate that anyone who undergoes screening for depression may also want to be examined for tinnitus.
The idea is that depression and tinnitus may share a common pathopsychology and be frequently “comorbid”. Which is just a fancy way of saying that depression and tinnitus might have some common causes, and that’s the reason why they appear together so often.
Of course, more research is required to figure out what that shared cause, if it exists, actually is. Because it’s also possible that, in certain situations, tinnitus results in depression; in other cases the opposite is true and in yet others, the two appear at the same time but aren’t linked at all. Right now, the connections are just too murky to put too much confidence in any one theory.
Will I Experience Depression if I Suffer From Tinnitus?
In part, cause and effect is difficult to understand because major depressive disorder can happen for a wide variety of reasons. Tinnitus can also occur for many reasons. In many cases, tinnitus manifests as a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Sometimes with tinnitus, you may hear other noises such as a thumping or beating. Usually, chronic tinnitus, the type 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. Traumatic brain injuries, for example, have been known to cause long lasting ringing in the ears. And sometimes, tinnitus can even develop for no apparent reason at all.
So will you develop depression if you suffer from chronic tinnitus? The answer is a challenging one to predict because of the variety of causes for tinnitus. But it is evident that your risks will rise if you ignore your tinnitus. The following reasons might help sort it out:
- The buzzing and ringing can make social communication harder, which can cause you to socially isolate yourself.
- For some people it can be an annoying and exhausting task to try and deal with the sounds of tinnitus that won’t go away.
- Tinnitus can make doing certain things you enjoy, like reading, difficult.
Managing Your Tinnitus
What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression tells us, luckily, is that by managing the tinnitus we may be able to offer some respite from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). You can minimize your symptoms and stay centered on the positive aspects of your life by managing your tinnitus using treatments including cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you ignore the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).
To put it another way, treatment can help your tinnitus diminish to the background. That means social situations will be easier to keep up with. You will have a much easier time following your favorite TV show or listening to your favorite music. And your life will have much less interruption.
That won’t prevent depression in all cases. But research suggests that managing tinnitus can help.
Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Apparent
That’s why medical professionals are beginning to take a more robust interest in keeping your hearing healthy.
We’re pretty certain that depression and tinnitus are linked although we’re not sure exactly what the connection is. Whichever one started first, managing tinnitus can have a considerable positive effect. And that’s the crucial takeaway.