It’s a situation of which one came first the chicken or the egg. You have a ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down about it. Or, maybe you were feeling somewhat depressed before that ringing started. You’re just not sure which happened first.
That’s exactly what scientists are attempting to figure out regarding the connection between tinnitus and depression. It’s fairly well established that there is a connection between depressive disorders and tinnitus. Study after study has borne out the notion that one tends to accompany the other. But the cause-and-effect connection is, well, more difficult to detect.
Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?
One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to contend that depression might be something of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, to put it another way: they discovered that depression is frequently a more visible first sign than tinnitus. It’s possible, as a result, that we just notice depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anyone who goes through a screening for depression may also want to be tested for tinnitus.
The idea is that tinnitus and depression may share a common pathopsychology and be frequently “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 required to figure out what that common cause, if there is one, actually is. Because, in some situations, it may be possible that depression is actually brought about by tinnitus; in other circumstances the opposite is true and in yet others, the two happen at the same time but aren’t connected at all. We can’t, right now, have much confidence in any one theory because we just don’t know enough about what the link is.
If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Experience Depression?
In part, cause and effect is hard to pin down because major depressive disorder can develop for a wide variety of reasons. There can also be a number of reasons for tinnitus to occur. In most cases, tinnitus manifests as a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Occasionally, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, a variety of other noises), but the main 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. Permanent ringing in the ears is sometimes caused by traumatic brain injury for example. And sometimes, tinnitus can even happen for no discernible reason whatsoever.
So if you suffer from chronic tinnitus, will you develop depression? The answer is a challenging one to predict because of the variety of causes for tinnitus. But what seems fairly clear is that if you don’t treat your tinnitus, your chances might increase. The following reasons might help sort it out:
- The ringing and buzzing can make social communication more difficult, which can lead you to socially isolate yourself.
- It can be a difficulty to do things you love, like reading when you have tinnitus.
- The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away by itself, can be a daunting and frustrating experience for some.
Dealing With Your Tinnitus
Fortunately, the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus teaches us that we might be able to find respite from one by treating the other. You can decrease your symptoms and stay centered on the positive aspects of your life by addressing your tinnitus making use of treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you disregard the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).
To put it another way, treatment can help your tinnitus diminish to the background. That means you’ll be able to keep up more easily with social situations. You won’t lose out on your favorite music or have a tough time following your favorite TV program. And your life will have a lot less disturbance.
That won’t prevent depression in all cases. But treating tinnitus can help according to research.
Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Apparent
That’s why medical professionals are beginning to take a stronger interest in keeping your hearing healthy.
At this juncture, we’re still in a chicken and egg situation when it comes to tinnitus and depression, but we’re pretty confident that the two are related. Whichever one started first, treating tinnitus can have a significant positive effect. And that’s the important takeaway.