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Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a situation of which one came first the chicken or the egg. There’s a ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down about it. Or perhaps before the ringing began you were already feeling a bit depressed. Which one came first is simply not certain.

That’s precisely what researchers are trying to find out regarding the link between tinnitus and depression. That there is a connection between tinnitus and major depressive conditions is pretty well established. The idea that one often comes with the other has been born out by numerous studies. But it’s much more challenging to recognize the exact cause and effect relationship.

Is Depression Caused by Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to say that a precursor to tinnitus may be depression. Or, to put it a different way: they observed that depression is often a more visible first sign than tinnitus. As a result, it’s possible that we simply notice the depression first. This research indicates that if somebody has been diagnosed with depression, it’s probably a good idea for them to have a tinnitus screening.

The theory is that tinnitus and depression might share a common pathopsychology and be frequently “comorbid”. Which is just a fancy way of saying that depression and tinnitus may have some shared causes, and that’s why they show up together so frequently.

But in order to figure out what the common cause is, more research will be needed. Because it’s also possible that, in some 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. We can’t, at this point, have much confidence in any one theory because we simply don’t know enough about what the connection is.

Will I Get Depression if I Have Tinnitus?

Major depressive conditions can occur from numerous causes and this is one reason why it’s tough to recognize a cause and effect relationship. There can also be a number of reasons for tinnitus to manifest. In many cases, tinnitus manifests as a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Sometimes, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, various other noises), but the root concept is the same. Noise damage over a long period of time is usually the cause of chronic tinnitus that is probably permanent.

But chronic tinnitus can have more severe causes. Permanent ringing in the ears can be caused by traumatic brain injury for instance. And sometimes, tinnitus can even happen for no perceptible reason at all.

So will you develop depression if you have chronic tinnitus? The answer is a difficult one to predict because of the variety of causes behind tinnitus. But it is evident that your chances increase if you neglect your tinnitus. The following reasons may help make sense of it:

  • It can be a challenge to do things you like, such as reading when you have tinnitus.
  • For some individuals it can be a frustrating and exhausting task to attempt to deal with the noises of tinnitus that won’t go away.
  • The ringing and buzzing can make interpersonal communication harder, which can cause you to socially isolate yourself.

Managing Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression tells us, fortunately, is that by managing 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 overlook the sounds) to masking devices (which are made to drown out the noise of your tinnitus), the proper treatment can help you decrease 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 you’ll be capable of keeping up more easily with social situations. You will have an easier time following your favorite TV program or listening to your favorite tunes. And your life will have much less interruption.

Taking these measures won’t always prevent depression. But research reveals that treating tinnitus can help.

Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Clear

Medical professionals are becoming more serious about keeping your hearing healthy due to this.

We’re pretty confident that tinnitus and depression are related even though we’re not certain exactly what the connection is. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression began first, managing your tinnitus can help significantly. And that’s why this insight 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.
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