The Link Between Depression And Tinnitus

Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

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

When it comes to the connection between tinnitus and depression, that’s precisely what scientists are trying to find out. It’s rather well established that there is a link between tinnitus and depressive disorders. Study after study has borne out the notion that one often accompanies the other. But the cause-and-effect relationship is, well, more difficult to detect.

Is Depression Caused by Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to say that a precursor to tinnitus may be depression. Or, stated another way: they found that depression is commonly a more visible first symptom than tinnitus. As a result, it’s possible that we simply notice the depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers indicate that anyone who goes through a screening for depression may also want to be examined for tinnitus.

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

Of course, more research is needed to figure out what that shared cause, if there is one, actually is. Because, in certain situations, it might be possible that depression is actually brought about by tinnitus; and in other circumstances, the reverse is true or they happen concurrently for different reasons. Currently, the connections are just too unclear to put too much confidence in any one theory.

If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Experience Depression?

In part, cause and effect is tough to pin down because major depressive disorder can develop for a wide variety of reasons. There can also be numerous reasons for tinnitus to manifest. In most cases, tinnitus manifests as a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Sometimes, the sound changes (a thump, a whump, various other noises), but the main 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, as an example, have been known to cause permanent ringing in the ears. And tinnitus can happen sometimes with no apparent cause.

So will you experience depression if you suffer from chronic tinnitus? The wide range of causes of tinnitus can make that challenging to predict. But it is clear that your risks will rise if you ignore your tinnitus. The following reasons may help sort it out:

  • For some individuals it can be an annoying and exhausting undertaking to attempt to deal with the noises of tinnitus that won’t go away.
  • Tinnitus can make doing some things you enjoy, such as reading, difficult.
  • The ringing and buzzing can make interpersonal communication harder, which can cause you to socially separate yourself.

Treating Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus clue us into, luckily, 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 designed to help you ignore the sounds) to masking devices (which are made to drown out the sound of your tinnitus), the correct treatment can help you lessen your symptoms and stay focused on the joy in your life.

Treatment can move your tinnitus into the background, to put it in a different way. Meaning that you’ll be capable of keeping up more easily with social activities. You will have an easier time following your favorite TV program or listening to your favorite music. And your life will have much less interruption.

That won’t prevent depression in all situations. But research reveals that treating tinnitus can help.

Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Apparent

Medical professionals are becoming more serious about keeping your hearing healthy because of this.

At this point, we’re still in a chicken and egg situation with regards to tinnitus and depression, but we’re pretty certain that the two are connected. Whichever one began first, managing tinnitus can have a considerable positive effect. And that’s the important takeaway.

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.