The Link Between Depression And Tinnitus

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. Which one came first is simply not certain.

That’s exactly what scientists are trying to find out when it comes to the connection between tinnitus and depression. That there is a link between tinnitus and major depressive conditions is fairly well established. The idea that one often comes with the other has been born out by numerous studies. But it’s far more difficult to comprehend the exact cause and effect relationship.

Is Depression Caused by Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to say that depression may be something of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, stated another way: They noticed that you can sometimes 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 indicate that anybody who goes through a screening for depression might also want to be examined for tinnitus.

Common pathopsychology could be at the root of both disorders and the two are commonly “comorbid”. Which is just a technical way of saying that depression and tinnitus may have some shared causes, and that’s why they appear together so often.

But in order to determine what the common cause is, more research will be needed. Because it’s also possible that, in certain cases, tinnitus triggers depression; and in other situations, the reverse is true or they occur simultaneously for different reasons. Currently, the connections are just too unclear to put too much confidence behind 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 happen for a wide variety of reasons. Tinnitus can also occur for a number of reasons. Tinnitus will usually cause a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Occasionally, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, various other noises), but the underlying idea is the same. Normally, chronic tinnitus, the type that doesn’t go away after a couple of hours or days, is caused by noise damage over a long period of time.

But there can be more severe causes for chronic tinnitus. Permanent ringing in the ears is sometimes caused by traumatic brain injury for example. And in some cases, tinnitus can even happen for no tangible reason at all.

So if you suffer from chronic tinnitus, will you experience depression? The answer is a challenging one to predict because of the wide variety of causes behind tinnitus. But it is clear that your chances increase if you neglect your tinnitus. The following reasons may help make sense of it:

  • You may wind up socially separating yourself because the buzzing and ringing causes you to have difficulty with social communication.
  • It can be a difficulty to do things you love, like reading when you suffer from tinnitus.
  • For many individuals it can be a frustrating and draining task to attempt to deal with the noises of tinnitus that won’t go away.

Treating Your Tinnitus

Luckily, the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression teaches us that we might be able to get respite from one by managing the other. You can decrease your symptoms and stay focused on the positive facets of your life by addressing your tinnitus using treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you disregard the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).

Treatment can move your tinnitus into the background, to put it in a different way. Meaning that you’ll be capable of keeping up more easily with social activities. You won’t miss out on your favorite music or have a difficult time following your favorite TV show. And you’ll find very little disturbance to your life.

That won’t stop depression in all situations. But managing tinnitus can help based upon research.

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 connected although we’re not certain exactly what the relationship is. Whichever one began first, treating tinnitus can have a significant positive effect. And that’s why this insight is important.

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.