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Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario. You have some ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down because of it. Or perhaps before the ringing began you were already feeling a little depressed. You’re just not certain which happened first.

When it comes to the connection between depression and tinnitus, that’s precisely what scientists are trying to find out. It’s pretty well established that there is a connection between tinnitus and depressive disorders. The idea that one often comes with the other has been well established by many studies. 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 appears to contend that depression might be somewhat of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, stated a different way: They found that you can at times recognize an issue with depression before tinnitus becomes apparent. As a result, it’s possible that we simply observe the depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anybody who has a screening for depression may also want to be tested for tinnitus.

Shared pathopsychology might be at the root of both disorders and the two are commonly “comorbid”. Which is just a technical way of saying that tinnitus and depression may have some shared causes, and that’s the reason why they show up together so frequently.

Of course, more research is necessary to determine what that common cause, if it exists, truly is. Because it’s also possible that, in certain circumstances, tinnitus results in depression; and in other cases, the opposite is true or they occur simultaneously for different reasons. Right now, the relationships are just too murky to put too much confidence in any one theory.

Will I Experience Depression if I Have Tinnitus?

In part, cause and effect is tough to understand because major depressive conditions can develop for a wide variety of reasons. There can also be numerous reasons for tinnitus to happen. In many cases, tinnitus manifests as a buzzing or ringing in your ears. In some cases with tinnitus, you may hear other noises such as a thumping or beating. Noise damage over a long period of time is usually the cause of chronic tinnitus that won’t go away.

But there can be more acute causes for chronic tinnitus. Permanent ringing in the ears can be caused by traumatic brain injury for example. And tinnitus can happen sometimes with no evident cause.

So if you have chronic tinnitus, will you develop depression? The wide variety of causes behind tinnitus can make that challenging to predict. But what seems quite clear is that if you don’t treat your tinnitus, your chances might increase. The reason may be the following:

  • The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away by itself, can be a daunting and aggravating experience for many.
  • You may wind up socially isolating yourself because the buzzing and ringing causes you to have trouble with social communication.
  • It can be a challenge to do things you like, like reading when you have tinnitus.

Dealing With Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus clue us into, fortunately, 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 created to help you disregard the sounds) to masking devices (which are created to drown out the noise of your tinnitus), the right treatment can help you lessen your symptoms and stay focused on the things in life that bring you joy.

To put it in a different way, treatment can help your tinnitus fade to the background. That means social activities will be easier to keep up with. You won’t lose out on your favorite music or have a tough time following your favorite TV program. And you’ll find very little disturbance to your life.

Taking these steps won’t always stop depression. But managing tinnitus can help based upon research.

Don’t Forget, It’s Still Unclear What The Cause And Effect is

That’s why medical professionals are beginning to take a stronger interest in keeping your hearing in good condition.

We’re pretty certain that depression and tinnitus are connected although we’re not certain exactly what the connection is. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression started 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.
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