It’s a chicken-or-egg situation. You have a ringing in your ears. And it’s making you feel pretty low. Or maybe before the ringing began you were already feeling somewhat depressed. You’re just not sure which happened first.
That’s exactly what scientists are trying to find out when it comes to the connection between depression and tinnitus. It’s fairly well established that there is a link between tinnitus and depressive disorders. Study after study has borne out the notion that one tends to accompany the other. But it’s far more difficult 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, to put it another way: They found that you can sometimes recognize an issue with depression before tinnitus becomes obvious. It’s possible, as a result, that we just notice depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers indicate that anyone who undergoes screening for depression might also want to be examined for tinnitus.
The theory is that tinnitus and depression may share a common pathopsychology and be commonly “comorbid”. Which is just a fancy way of saying that tinnitus and depression might have some common causes, and that’s the reason why they appear together so frequently.
Clearly, more research is necessary to figure out what that shared cause, if it exists, actually is. Because, in some cases, it may be possible that depression is actually caused by tinnitus; and in other circumstances, the reverse is true or they appear 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 understand because major depressive disorder can develop for a large number of reasons. Tinnitus can also occur for numerous reasons. In many cases, tinnitus manifests as a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Occasionally, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, various other noises), but the underlying concept is the same. Noise damage over a long period of time is normally the cause of chronic tinnitus that won’t go away.
But chronic tinnitus can have more serious causes. Traumatic brain injuries, for example, have been known to cause long lasting ringing in the ears. And tinnitus can happen sometimes with no apparent cause.
So if you have chronic tinnitus, will you experience depression? The answer is a challenging one to predict because of the variety of causes for tinnitus. But what seems pretty clear is that if you leave your tinnitus untreated, your chances will probably increase. The reason might be the following:
- The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it doesn’t go away on its own, can be a challenging and aggravating experience for some.
- The buzzing and ringing can make social communication more difficult, which can cause you to socially isolate yourself.
- Tinnitus can make doing certain things you enjoy, like reading, challenging.
Treating Your Tinnitus
What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression clue us into, thankfully, is that by treating the tinnitus we might be able to offer 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 correct treatment can help you lessen your symptoms and stay centered 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 able to keep up more easily with social situations. You won’t lose out on your favorite music or have a tough time following your favorite TV program. And you’ll find very little interruption to your life.
That won’t stop depression in all cases. But research indicates that treating tinnitus can help.
Don’t Forget, It’s Still Not Clear What The Cause And Effect is
Medical professionals are becoming more interested in keeping your hearing healthy due to this.
At this juncture, we’re still in a chicken and egg situation when it comes to tinnitus and depression, but we’re pretty confident that the two are connected. Whichever one began first, treating tinnitus can have a significant positive effect. And that’s the important takeaway.