It’s a situation of which came first the chicken or the egg. There’s a ringing in your ears. And it’s causing you to feel pretty low. Or, maybe you were feeling a little depressed before the ringing started. You’re just not certain which happened first.
When it comes to the link between depression and tinnitus, that’s precisely what researchers are trying to find out. That there is a connection between tinnitus and major depressive disorders is rather well established. Study after study has shown that one tends to accompany the other. But it’s much more challenging to comprehend the exact cause and effect relationship.
Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?
One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to contend that depression may be something of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, said another way: They noticed that you can at times recognize a problem with depression before tinnitus becomes apparent. It’s likely, as a result, that we just notice depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anyone who goes through a screening for depression may also want to be examined for tinnitus.
The idea is that depression and tinnitus may share a common pathopsychology and be commonly “comorbid”. In other words, there may be some shared causes between tinnitus and depression which would cause them to appear together.
Of course, more research is necessary to determine what that shared cause, if it exists, truly is. Because, in some situations, it might be possible that depression is actually caused by tinnitus; and in other situations, the opposite is true or they happen concurrently for different reasons. We can’t, right now, have much confidence in any one theory because we simply don’t know enough about what the connection is.
Will I Experience Depression if I Have Tinnitus?
In part, cause and effect is tough to pin down because major depressive conditions can happen for a large number of reasons. There can also be a number of reasons for tinnitus to occur. In many cases, tinnitus presents as a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Occasionally with tinnitus, you will hear other sounds including 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 chronic tinnitus can have more severe causes. Traumatic brain injuries, as an example, have been known to cause long lasting ringing in the ears. And tinnitus can occur sometimes with no evident cause.
So if you suffer from chronic tinnitus, will you develop depression? The answer is a challenging one to predict because of the range of causes for tinnitus. But it is clear that your risks increase if you neglect your tinnitus. The reason might be as follows:
- For many individuals it can be a frustrating and draining task to attempt to cope with the sounds of tinnitus that won’t go away.
- Tinnitus can make doing certain things you enjoy, such as reading, challenging.
- You may wind up socially separating yourself because the ringing and buzzing causes you to have difficulty with social communication.
Managing Your Tinnitus
What the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus clue us into, luckily, 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 designed to help you overlook the sounds) to masking devices (which are made to drown out the sound of your tinnitus), the right treatment can help you reduce 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 activities will be easier to stay on top of. You won’t miss out on your favorite music or have a difficult time following your favorite TV show. And your life will have a lot less interruption.
That won’t stop depression in all cases. But research indicates that treating tinnitus can help.
Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Clear
That’s why medical professionals are beginning to take a stronger interest in keeping your hearing healthy.
At this stage, we’re still in a chicken and egg scenario with regards to tinnitus and depression, but we’re pretty certain that the two are connected. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression began first, managing your tinnitus can help considerably. And that’s the crucial takeaway.