It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario. There’s a ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down about it. Or maybe before the ringing started you were already feeling somewhat depressed. Which one came first is just not certain.
When it comes to the link between depression and tinnitus, that’s precisely what researchers are trying to figure out. That there is a link between tinnitus and major depressive disorders is pretty well established. The notion that one often comes with the other has been born out by many studies. But it’s far more difficult 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 might be depression. Or, to put it a different way: they found that depression is commonly a more visible first symptom than tinnitus. Consequently, it’s possible that we simply observe the depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anyone who has a screening for depression may also want to be checked for tinnitus.
The theory is that depression and tinnitus may share a common pathopsychology and be frequently “comorbid”. Which is just a fancy way of saying that tinnitus and depression may have some shared causes, and that’s why they show up together so frequently.
Clearly, more research is necessary to determine what that common cause, if it exists, truly is. Because, in some cases, it may be possible that depression is actually brought about by tinnitus; in other circumstances the opposite is true and in yet others, the two appear at the same time but aren’t linked at all. Right now, the relationships are just too unclear to put too much confidence in any one theory.
If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Develop Depression?
In part, cause and effect is difficult to pin down because major depressive disorder can happen for a wide variety of reasons. Tinnitus can also develop for many reasons. Tinnitus usually will cause a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Sometimes, the sound changes (a thump, a whump, a variety of other noises), but the root idea is the same. Usually, chronic tinnitus, the kind that doesn’t go away after a short period of time, is caused by noise damage over a long period of time.
But there can be more severe causes for chronic tinnitus. Traumatic brain injuries, for example, have been known to cause long lasting ringing in the ears. And tinnitus can occur sometimes with no recognizable cause.
So will you experience depression if you suffer from chronic tinnitus? The variety of causes behind tinnitus can make that tough to know. But what seems quite clear is that if you don’t treat your tinnitus, your risks may increase. The following reasons may help make sense of it:
- You might end up socially isolating yourself because the ringing and buzzing causes you to have trouble with interpersonal communication.
- Tinnitus can make doing certain things you enjoy, such as reading, challenging.
- The noises of the tinnitus, and the fact that it doesn’t go away by itself, can be a challenging and frustrating experience for some.
Treating Your Tinnitus
What the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus clue us into, thankfully, is that by managing the tinnitus we may be able to offer some relief from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). You can reduce your symptoms and stay centered on the positive facets of your life by managing your tinnitus making use of treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you ignore the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).
Treatment can push your tinnitus into the background, to put it another way. That means social situations will be easier to stay on top of. You won’t miss out on your favorite music or have a hard time following your favorite TV program. And your life will have a lot less interruption.
Taking these steps won’t always prevent depression. But treating 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 starting to take a more robust interest in keeping your hearing healthy.
At this stage, we’re still in a chicken and egg situation with regards to tinnitus and depression, but we’re pretty certain that the two are related. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression started first, treating your tinnitus can help considerably. And that’s why this insight is important.