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Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

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

That’s exactly what experts are trying to find out regarding the link between depression and tinnitus. That there is a connection between tinnitus and major depressive disorders is pretty well established. Study after study has shown that one tends to accompany the other. But the cause-and-effect connection is, well, more difficult to discern.

Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to say that depression might be somewhat of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, to put it a different way: They discovered that you can sometimes identify an issue with depression before tinnitus becomes apparent. It’s possible, as a result, that we simply notice depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anybody who has a screening for depression might also want to be checked for tinnitus.

Common pathopsychology might be at the root of both disorders and the two are frequently “comorbid”. Put another way, there could be some common causes between tinnitus and depression which would cause them to occur together.

Of course, more research is needed to figure out what that shared cause, if there is one, actually is. Because it’s also possible that, in certain cases, tinnitus causes depression; and in other situations, the reverse is true or they occur simultaneously 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.

Will I Get Depression if I Suffer From Tinnitus?

In part, cause and effect is tough to understand because major depressive disorder can develop for a large number of reasons. There can also be quite a few reasons for tinnitus to occur. Tinnitus will usually cause a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Sometimes, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, a variety of 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 is probably permanent.

But chronic tinnitus can have more acute causes. Traumatic brain injuries, for example, have been recognized to cause long lasting ringing in the ears. And at times, tinnitus can even happen for no apparent reason whatsoever.

So if you suffer from chronic tinnitus, will you develop depression? The answer is a difficult one to predict because of the wide array of causes for tinnitus. But what seems pretty clear is that if you leave your tinnitus untreated, your chances will probably increase. The following reasons might help sort it out:

  • The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away on its own, can be a daunting and aggravating experience for some.
  • Tinnitus can make doing certain things you enjoy, such as reading, difficult.
  • You may end up socially isolating yourself because the buzzing and ringing causes you to have problems with social communication.

Treating Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression clue us into, fortunately, is that by managing the tinnitus we may be able to offer some respite from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). You can minimize your symptoms and stay focused on the positive aspects of your life by managing your tinnitus making use of treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you ignore 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. That means social activities will be easier to stay on top of. You will have a much easier time following your favorite TV show or listening to your favorite music. And your life will have a lot less interruption.

Taking these steps won’t always prevent depression. But treating tinnitus can help based upon research.

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

Medical professionals are becoming more focused on keeping your hearing healthy because of this.

We’re pretty confident that tinnitus and depression are linked although we’re not certain exactly what the connection is. Whichever one began first, treating tinnitus can have a significant positive effect. And that’s the crucial takeaway.

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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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