It’s a scenario of which came first the chicken or the egg. 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 began. You’re just not sure which started first.
When it comes to the link between depression and tinnitus, that’s precisely what scientists are trying to find out. That there is a link between tinnitus and major depressive conditions is rather well established. Study after study has shown that one often accompanies the other. But the cause-and-effect connection is, well, more challenging to discern.
Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?
One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to contend that a precursor to tinnitus may be depression. Or, to put it another way: they discovered that depression is commonly a more noticeable first sign than tinnitus. It’s likely, as a result, that we just notice depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anybody who has a screening for depression may also want to be examined for tinnitus.
Shared pathopsychology may be at the root of both disorders and the two are frequently “comorbid”. Which is just a technical way of saying that depression and tinnitus might have some common causes, and that’s why they show up together so often.
But in order to figure out what the common cause is, more research will be necessary. Because it’s also possible that, in certain situations, tinnitus triggers depression; in other circumstances the opposite is true and in yet others, the two occur at the same time but aren’t linked at all. Right now, the relationships are just too murky to put too much confidence behind any one theory.
If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Experience Depression?
In part, cause and effect is hard to pin down because major depressive conditions can develop for a wide variety of reasons. There can also be quite a few reasons for tinnitus to happen. In most cases, tinnitus presents as a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Sometimes with tinnitus, you will hear other sounds such as a thumping or beating. 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 there can be more acute causes for chronic tinnitus. Traumatic brain injuries, for example, have been known to cause permanent ringing in the ears. And sometimes, tinnitus can even happen for no discernible reason at all.
So if you suffer from chronic tinnitus, will you experience depression? The answer is a challenging one to predict because of the wide array of causes for tinnitus. But what seems fairly clear is that if you leave your tinnitus untreated, your risks may increase. The following reasons might help make sense of it:
- You may end up socially isolating yourself because the buzzing and ringing causes you to have trouble with interpersonal communication.
- The noises of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away on its own, can be a daunting and aggravating experience for some.
- Tinnitus can make doing certain things you love, such as reading, difficult.
Dealing With Your Tinnitus
What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression tells us, thankfully, is that by treating 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 sound 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 fade 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 program or listening to your favorite music. And you’ll notice very little disturbance to your life.
Taking these steps won’t always prevent depression. But managing tinnitus can help according to research.
Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Apparent
That’s why medical professionals are starting to take a stronger interest in keeping your hearing in good condition.
We’re pretty certain that tinnitus and depression are related although we’re not certain exactly what the connection is. Whichever one began first, treating tinnitus can have a significant positive effect. And that’s the crucial takeaway.