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Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario. You have some ringing in your ears. And it’s making you feel pretty low. Or, perhaps you were feeling somewhat depressed before that ringing started. You’re just not certain which happened first.

That’s exactly what experts are trying to find out when it comes to the link between depression and tinnitus. That there is a link between tinnitus and major depressive disorders is pretty well established. The idea that one tends to come with the other has been born out by many studies. But the cause-and-effect relationship is, well, more challenging to detect.

Is Depression Caused by Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to contend that a precursor to tinnitus might be depression. Or, to put it a different way: They noticed that you can at times identify a problem with depression before tinnitus becomes apparent. It’s likely, as a result, that we just notice depression first. This study suggests that if somebody has been diagnosed with depression, it’s probably a good idea for them to have a tinnitus screening.

The idea is that tinnitus and depression might share a common pathopsychology and be commonly “comorbid”. Which is just a technical way of saying that depression and tinnitus may have some shared causes, and that’s the reason why they appear together so frequently.

But in order to determine what the common cause is, more research will be required. Because it’s also possible that, in some situations, tinnitus causes depression; in other circumstances the opposite is true and in yet others, the two occur at the same time but aren’t linked at all. Currently, the connections are just too unclear to put too much confidence in any one theory.

Will I Experience Depression if I Suffer From Tinnitus?

In part, cause and effect is hard to understand because major depressive conditions can happen for a wide variety of reasons. There can also be numerous reasons for tinnitus to manifest. 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 underlying idea is the same. Noise damage over a long period of time is usually the cause of chronic tinnitus that is probably permanent.

But chronic tinnitus can have more severe causes. Permanent ringing in the ears is sometimes caused by traumatic brain injury for example. And at times, tinnitus can even happen for no perceptible reason whatsoever.

So will you experience depression if you suffer from chronic tinnitus? The answer is a difficult one to predict because of the variety of causes for tinnitus. But what seems fairly clear is that if you don’t treat your tinnitus, your chances might increase. The following reasons may help sort it out:

  • The noises of the tinnitus, and the fact that it doesn’t go away by itself, can be a daunting and aggravating experience for some.
  • You might wind up socially isolating yourself because the ringing and buzzing causes you to have trouble with social communication.
  • Tinnitus can make doing certain things you love, such as reading, difficult.

Dealing With Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression clue us into, fortunately, is that by treating the tinnitus we may be able to give some respite from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). From cognitive-behavioral therapy (which is created to help you disregard the sounds) to masking devices (which are created to drown out the sound of your tinnitus), the correct treatment can help you minimize your symptoms and stay focused on the joy in your life.

Treatment can move your tinnitus into the background, to put it in a different way. That means you’ll be capable of keeping up more easily with social activities. You will have a much easier time following your favorite TV show or listening to your favorite music. And you’ll find very little disturbance to your life.

That won’t stop depression in all situations. But research reveals that treating tinnitus can help.

Don’t Forget, It’s Still Not Clear What The Cause And Effect is

Medical professionals are becoming more serious about keeping your hearing healthy because of this.

At this stage, we’re still in a chicken and egg situation with regards to depression and tinnitus, but we’re pretty confident that the two are connected. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression began first, treating your tinnitus can help significantly. And that’s why this insight is important.

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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.
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