It’s a chicken-or-egg situation. You have some ringing in your ears. And it’s causing you to feel pretty low. Or perhaps before the ringing started you were already feeling somewhat depressed. You’re just not sure which started first.
That’s precisely what researchers are attempting to find out when it comes to the link between tinnitus and depression. That there is a link between tinnitus and major depressive disorders is pretty well established. Many studies have borne out the notion that one tends to accompany the other. But the cause-and-effect relationship is, well, more difficult to discern.
Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?
One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to contend that a precursor to tinnitus might be depression. Or, to put it a different way: They noticed that you can at times recognize an issue with depression before tinnitus becomes obvious. As a result, it’s feasible that we simply observe the depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anyone who undergoes screening for depression might also want to be checked for tinnitus.
The theory is that depression and tinnitus may share a common pathopsychology and be commonly “comorbid”. Put another way, there may be some shared causes between depression and tinnitus which would cause them to appear together.
Of course, more research is needed to determine what that shared cause, if it exists, truly is. Because it’s also feasible that, in certain cases, tinnitus results in depression; and in other cases, the opposite is true or they happen concurrently for different reasons. Currently, the relationships are just too murky to put too much confidence behind any one theory.
Will I Experience Depression if I Have Tinnitus?
In part, cause and effect is hard to pin down because major depressive disorder can develop for a wide variety of reasons. Tinnitus can also develop for many reasons. In many cases, tinnitus presents as a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Sometimes with tinnitus, you will hear other noises like a thumping or beating. Normally, chronic tinnitus, the kind 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. Long lasting ringing in the ears can be caused by traumatic brain injury for instance. And tinnitus can occur sometimes with no apparent cause.
So if you have chronic tinnitus, will you develop depression? The wide range of causes behind tinnitus can make that tough to predict. But what seems fairly clear is that if you don’t treat your tinnitus, your risks will probably increase. The following reasons may help make sense of it:
- The noises of the tinnitus, and the fact that it doesn’t go away on its own, can be a challenging and aggravating experience for some.
- Tinnitus can make doing some things you love, such as reading, challenging.
- The ringing and buzzing can make interpersonal communication harder, which can cause you to socially separate yourself.
Dealing With Your Tinnitus
What the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus tells us, thankfully, is that by managing the tinnitus we may be able to offer some relief from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). You can lessen your symptoms and stay focused on the positive facets of your life by addressing your tinnitus using treatments including cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you overlook the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).
To put it in a different way, treatment can help your tinnitus diminish to the background. That means social situations will be easier to stay on top of. You will have a much easier time following your favorite TV show or listening to your favorite tunes. And you’ll notice very little disturbance to your life.
Taking these steps won’t always stop depression. But managing tinnitus can help based upon research.
Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Apparent
Medical professionals are becoming more interested in keeping your hearing healthy because of this.
At this juncture, we’re still in a chicken and egg scenario when it comes to depression and tinnitus, but we’re pretty certain that the two are linked. Whichever one started first, treating tinnitus can have a significant positive effect. And that’s the crucial takeaway.