The Link Between Depression And Tinnitus

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 making you feel pretty low. Or maybe before the ringing began you were already feeling a little depressed. Which one came first is simply not certain.

That’s exactly what scientists are attempting to find out when it comes to the link between depression and tinnitus. That there is a connection between tinnitus and major depressive conditions is fairly well established. Many studies have borne out the notion that one tends to accompany the other. But it’s far more difficult to comprehend the exact cause and effect relationship.

Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders seems to say that a precursor to tinnitus may be depression. Or, stated another way: they discovered that depression is frequently a more visible first sign than tinnitus. It’s possible, as a result, that we simply notice depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anyone who undergoes screening for depression might also want to be tested for tinnitus.

Shared pathopsychology could be at the root of both disorders and the two are commonly “comorbid”. Put another way, there could be some shared causes between depression and tinnitus which would cause them to occur together.

But in order to figure out what the common cause is, more research will be needed. Because, in some situations, it might be possible that depression is actually caused by tinnitus; and in other cases, the reverse is true or they occur concurrently for different reasons. Right now, the connections are just too murky to put too much confidence behind any one theory.

Will I Experience Depression if I Suffer From Tinnitus?

Major depressive disorders can occur from many causes and this is one reason why it’s tough to pin down a cause and effect relationship. There can also be quite a few reasons for tinnitus to manifest. Tinnitus will usually cause a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Sometimes, the sound changes (a thump, a whump, a variety of other noises), but the main concept 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 acute causes for chronic tinnitus. Traumatic brain injuries, for example, have been recognized to cause long lasting ringing in the ears. And at times, tinnitus can even happen for no tangible reason at all.

So if you have chronic tinnitus, will you develop depression? The variety of causes of tinnitus can make that tough to predict. But it is evident that your chances will rise if you ignore your tinnitus. The reason may be as follows:

  • The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away on its own, can be a challenging and frustrating experience for many.
  • It can be a challenge to do things you love, like reading when you have tinnitus.
  • The ringing and buzzing can make interpersonal communication harder, which can lead you to socially isolate yourself.

Managing Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus tells us, thankfully, is that by treating the tinnitus we might be able to give some relief from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). You can decrease your symptoms and stay centered on the positive aspects of your life by managing your tinnitus using treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you ignore the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).

To put it another way, treatment can help your tinnitus fade to the background. That means social situations will be easier to keep up with. You won’t lose 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.

That won’t prevent depression in all situations. But managing tinnitus can help based upon research.

Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Apparent

Medical professionals are becoming more serious about keeping your hearing healthy due to this.

At this stage, we’re still in a chicken and egg scenario when it comes to depression and tinnitus, but we’re pretty confident that the two are related. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression started first, managing your tinnitus can help significantly. And that’s the crucial 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.