It’s a situation of which one came first the chicken or the egg. You have a ringing in your ears. And it’s making you feel pretty low. Or perhaps before the ringing began you were already feeling somewhat depressed. Which one came first is simply not clear.
That’s precisely what scientists are attempting to figure out when it comes to the link between tinnitus and depression. It’s rather well established that there is a connection between depressive disorders and tinnitus. Many studies have borne out the notion that one tends to accompany the other. But the cause-and-effect connection is, well, more challenging to determine.
Is Depression Caused by Tinnitus?
One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to contend that depression might be something of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, stated another way: they observed that depression is frequently a more noticeable first symptom than tinnitus. Consequently, it’s possible that we simply observe the depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers indicate that anybody who has a screening for depression may also want to be checked for tinnitus.
The theory is that tinnitus and depression might share a common pathopsychology and be commonly “comorbid”. In other words, there might be some shared causes between depression and tinnitus which would cause them to occur together.
Needless to say, more research is needed to determine what that common cause, if there is one, actually is. Because it’s also feasible that, in certain circumstances, tinnitus causes depression; in other cases the opposite is true and in yet others, the two occur at the same time but aren’t linked at all. Currently, the relationships are just too murky to put too much confidence in any one theory.
Will I Experience Depression if I Suffer From Tinnitus?
Major depressive conditions can occur from many causes and this is one reason it’s hard to pin down a cause and effect relationship. There can also be quite a few reasons for tinnitus to occur. In many cases, tinnitus presents as a buzzing or ringing in your ears. At times, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, a variety of other noises), but the main idea is the same. In most cases, chronic tinnitus, the type that doesn’t go away after a short period of time, 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 is sometimes caused by traumatic brain injury for instance. And tinnitus can occur sometimes with no obvious cause.
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 what seems fairly clear is that if you don’t treat your tinnitus, your risks will probably increase. The reason may be as follows:
- The buzzing and ringing can make social communication harder, which can cause you to socially separate yourself.
- It can be a challenge to do things you enjoy, like reading when you have tinnitus.
- The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away by itself, can be a daunting and frustrating experience for some.
Treating Your Tinnitus
Luckily, the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression teaches us that we may be able to find respite from one by managing the other. You can decrease your symptoms and stay focused on the positive aspects of your life by dealing with your tinnitus utilizing treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you disregard 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. Meaning that you’ll be capable of keeping up more easily with social situations. You won’t lose out on your favorite music or have a hard time following your favorite TV program. And you’ll find very little interruption to your life.
That won’t prevent depression in all cases. But managing tinnitus can help according to research.
Don’t Forget, It’s Still Not Clear What The Cause And Effect is
That’s why medical professionals are beginning to take a more robust interest in keeping your hearing in good condition.
At this stage, we’re still in a chicken and egg situation with regards to depression and tinnitus, but we’re pretty certain that the two are linked. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression started first, managing your tinnitus can help considerably. And that’s the crucial takeaway.