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Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a scenario of which came first the chicken or the egg. You have some ringing in your ears. And it’s causing you to feel pretty low. Or perhaps before the ringing began you were already feeling a bit depressed. Which one came first is simply not clear.

When it comes to the link between depression and tinnitus, that’s precisely what scientists are trying to find out. It’s fairly well established that there is a connection between depressive disorders and tinnitus. Study after study has shown that one often accompanies 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 seems to say that depression might be something 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 obvious. As a result, it’s feasible that we simply observe the depression first. This research suggests that if someone has been diagnosed with depression, it’s probably a good idea for them to have a tinnitus screening.

Common pathopsychology may be at the root of both disorders and the two are commonly “comorbid”. Which is just a technical way of saying that tinnitus and depression might have some shared causes, and that’s the reason why they manifest together so often.

But in order to determine what the common cause is, more research will be needed. Because, in certain cases, it might be possible that depression is actually caused by tinnitus; and in other circumstances, the opposite is true or they happen simultaneously for different reasons. We can’t, at this point, have much confidence in any one theory because we simply don’t know enough about what the connection is.

Will I Get Depression if I Suffer From Tinnitus?

In part, cause and effect is tough to pin down because major depressive disorder can develop for a wide variety of reasons. Tinnitus can also occur for numerous reasons. In many cases, tinnitus manifests as a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Sometimes with tinnitus, you may hear other noises such as a thumping or beating. Noise damage over a long period of time is usually the cause of chronic tinnitus that is probably permanent.

But chronic tinnitus can have more severe causes. Permanent ringing in the ears is sometimes caused by traumatic brain injury for example. And tinnitus can occur sometimes with no recognizable cause.

So will you experience depression if you have chronic tinnitus? The answer is a difficult one to predict because of the range of causes behind tinnitus. But what seems quite clear is that if you leave your tinnitus untreated, your chances will probably increase. The reason may be as follows:

  • You might wind up socially separating yourself because the ringing and buzzing causes you to have difficulty with interpersonal communication.
  • Tinnitus can make doing some things you enjoy, like reading, challenging.
  • The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away on its own, can be a challenging and aggravating experience for many.

Treating Your Tinnitus

Fortunately, the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression teaches us that we may be able to find respite from one by managing the other. From cognitive-behavioral therapy (which is designed to help you disregard the sounds) to masking devices (which are made to drown out the sound of your tinnitus), the right treatment can help you decrease your symptoms and stay focused on the things in life that bring you joy.

Treatment can move your tinnitus into the background, to put it another way. That means you’ll be capable of keeping up more easily with social situations. You won’t miss out on your favorite music or have a difficult time following your favorite TV show. And you’ll notice very little disturbance to your life.

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

Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Clear

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

We’re pretty certain that tinnitus and depression are connected although we’re not sure exactly what the relationship is. Whichever one started first, treating tinnitus can have a considerable positive effect. And that’s why this information 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.