Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a scenario of which one came first the chicken or the egg. There’s a ringing in your ears. And it’s causing you to feel pretty low. Or, it’s possible you were feeling a little depressed before the ringing started. Which one came first is simply not clear.

When it comes to the connection between tinnitus and depression, that’s exactly what scientists are trying to figure out. That there is a connection between tinnitus and major depressive conditions is fairly well established. Many studies have borne out the notion that one often accompanies the other. But the cause-and-effect connection is, well, more challenging to detect.

Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to say that depression might be something of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, stated another way: they discovered that depression is frequently a more visible first symptom than tinnitus. Consequently, it’s possible that we simply observe the depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers indicate that anybody who goes through a screening for depression may also want to be examined for tinnitus.

The idea is that tinnitus and depression might share a common pathopsychology and be frequently “comorbid”. In other words, there might be some common causes between tinnitus and depression which would cause them to occur together.

Clearly, more research is necessary to figure out what that shared cause, if there is one, actually is. Because it’s also feasible that, in some situations, tinnitus causes depression; in other cases the reverse is true and in yet others, the two appear at the same time but aren’t related at all. We can’t, at this point, have much confidence in any one theory because we just don’t know enough about what the connection is.

If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Develop Depression?

Major depressive disorders can develop from many causes and this is one reason why it’s tough to recognize a cause and effect relationship. There can also be quite a few reasons for tinnitus to manifest. Tinnitus will usually cause a ringing or buzzing in your ears. At times, the sound changes (a thump, a whump, a variety of other noises), but the root idea is the same. Noise damage over a long period of time is usually the cause of chronic tinnitus that won’t go away.

But there can be more serious causes for chronic tinnitus. Traumatic brain injuries, as an 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 develop depression? The wide range of causes of tinnitus can make that tough to predict. But it is clear that your chances increase if you ignore your tinnitus. The reason may be the following:

  • For many people it can be an aggravating and exhausting task to try and cope with the noises of tinnitus that won’t go away.
  • The ringing and buzzing can make interpersonal communication more difficult, which can cause you to socially isolate yourself.
  • Tinnitus can make doing some things you enjoy, such as reading, challenging.

Treating Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus clue us into, fortunately, is that by treating the tinnitus we may be able to offer some respite from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). You can minimize your symptoms and stay centered on the positive aspects of your life by managing your tinnitus making use of treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you overlook the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).

Treatment can push 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 activities. You won’t lose out on your favorite music or have a hard time following your favorite TV program. And your life will have a lot less disturbance.

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

Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Apparent

Medical professionals are becoming more interested in keeping your hearing healthy because of this.

At this juncture, we’re still in a chicken and egg scenario when it comes to tinnitus and depression, but we’re pretty confident that the two are linked. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression started first, treating your tinnitus can help considerably. 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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