It’s a situation of which one came first the chicken or the egg. You have some ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down because of it. Or perhaps before the ringing began you were already feeling somewhat depressed. You’re just not certain which happened first.
When it comes to the connection between depression and tinnitus, that’s precisely what researchers are trying to find out. That there is a connection between tinnitus and major depressive disorders is pretty well established. The notion that one tends to come with the other has been born out by many studies. But it’s much more challenging to understand the exact cause and effect relationship.
Is Depression Caused by Tinnitus?
One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to contend that depression might be something of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, stated a different way: they observed that depression is commonly a more noticeable first symptom than tinnitus. It’s likely, 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 may also want to be examined for tinnitus.
The theory is that tinnitus and depression might share a common pathopsychology and be frequently “comorbid”. Put another way, there could be some shared causes between depression and tinnitus which would cause them to appear together.
Of course, more research is necessary to determine what that common cause, if there is one, truly is. Because, in certain cases, it may be possible that depression is actually caused by tinnitus; and in other situations, the opposite is true or they happen simultaneously for different reasons. Right now, the connections are just too unclear to put too much confidence in any one theory.
If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Develop Depression?
Major depressive disorders can develop from numerous causes and this is one reason it’s tough to recognize a cause and effect relationship. Tinnitus can also occur for a number of reasons. In most cases, tinnitus manifests as a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Occasionally, the sound changes (a thump, a whump, various other noises), but the main idea is the same. In most cases, chronic tinnitus, the type that doesn’t go away after a couple of hours or days, is caused by noise damage over a long period of time.
But chronic tinnitus can have more acute causes. Traumatic brain injuries, as an example, have been recognized to cause permanent ringing in the ears. And at times, tinnitus can even develop for no discernible reason at all.
So will you experience depression if you suffer from chronic tinnitus? The answer is a challenging one to predict because of the variety of causes behind tinnitus. But what seems quite clear is that if you leave your tinnitus untreated, your chances will probably increase. The following reasons may help make sense of it:
- It can be a challenge to do things you like, such as reading when you suffer from tinnitus.
- You might wind up socially isolating yourself because the ringing and buzzing causes you to have problems with social communication.
- For many people it can be an aggravating and exhausting task to attempt to deal with the noises of tinnitus that won’t go away.
Treating Your Tinnitus
What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression tells us, fortunately, is that by treating the tinnitus we might be able to give some relief from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). From cognitive-behavioral therapy (which is created 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 minimize your symptoms and stay centered on the joy in your life.
To put it another way, treatment can help your tinnitus fade to the background. That means social situations will be easier to stay on top of. You won’t miss out on your favorite music or have a hard time following your favorite TV program. And you’ll see very little disturbance to your life.
That won’t prevent depression in all cases. But research suggests that managing tinnitus can help.
Don’t Forget, It’s Still Not Clear What The Cause And Effect is
Medical professionals are becoming more focused on keeping your hearing healthy due to 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 linked. Whichever one started first, managing tinnitus can have a considerable positive effect. And that’s the crucial takeaway.