It’s a scenario of which one came first the chicken or the egg. You have some ringing in your ears. And it’s making you feel pretty low. Or perhaps before the ringing started you were already feeling a little depressed. Which one came first is simply not certain.
That’s exactly what experts are trying to find out when it comes to the connection between depression and tinnitus. It’s pretty well established that there is a connection between depressive disorders and tinnitus. The notion that one tends to come with the other has been born out by numerous studies. But the cause-and-effect relationship is, well, more difficult to determine.
Is Depression Caused by Tinnitus?
One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to say that a precursor to tinnitus might be depression. Or, said another way: they found that depression is commonly a more noticeable first sign than tinnitus. It’s possible, as a result, that we just notice depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anybody who has a screening for depression may also want to be checked for tinnitus.
The theory is that depression and tinnitus may share a common pathopsychology and be commonly “comorbid”. Which is just a fancy way of saying that depression and tinnitus may have some common causes, and that’s why they manifest together so frequently.
Needless to say, more research is needed to determine what that common cause, if it exists, truly is. Because it’s also feasible that, in certain circumstances, tinnitus results in depression; and in other cases, the reverse is true or they occur concurrently for different reasons. We can’t, at this point, have much confidence in any one theory because we just don’t know enough about what the link is.
If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Experience Depression?
In part, cause and effect is tough to understand because major depressive conditions can develop for a wide variety of reasons. There can also be numerous reasons for tinnitus to happen. Tinnitus will usually cause a buzzing or ringing in your ears. At times, the sound changes (a thump, a whump, a variety of other noises), but the main concept is the same. Usually, chronic tinnitus, the kind that doesn’t go away after a couple of hours or days, 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 sometimes, tinnitus can even happen for no discernible reason whatsoever.
So will you develop depression if you suffer from chronic tinnitus? The answer is a complicated one to predict because of the wide variety of causes behind tinnitus. But it is evident that your risks will rise if you neglect your tinnitus. The reason might be as follows:
- The ringing and buzzing can make interpersonal communication harder, which can lead you to socially separate yourself.
- Tinnitus can make doing some things you love, such as reading, challenging.
- For some individuals it can be a frustrating and exhausting task to try and cope with the sounds of tinnitus that won’t go away.
Managing Your Tinnitus
Fortunately, the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus teaches us that we may be able to get relief from one by treating the other. From cognitive-behavioral therapy (which is designed to help you overlook the sounds) to masking devices (which are made to drown out the noise of your tinnitus), the proper treatment can help you decrease your symptoms and stay centered on the things in life that bring you joy.
Treatment can move your tinnitus into the background, to put it in a different way. Meaning that you’ll be able to keep up more easily with social activities. You will have a much easier time following your favorite TV program or listening to your favorite music. And you’ll see very little interruption 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
That’s why medical professionals are beginning to take a more robust interest in keeping your hearing healthy.
At this stage, we’re still in a chicken and egg situation with regards to tinnitus and depression, but we’re pretty confident that the two are related. Whichever one began first, managing tinnitus can have a significant positive effect. And that’s why this insight is important.