McDonald Hearing Services - Grand Rapids, MI

“Woman

It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario. You have some 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 certain.

When it comes to the link between depression and tinnitus, that’s precisely what scientists are trying to figure out. That there is a link between tinnitus and major depressive disorders is pretty well established. Many studies have borne out the notion that one tends to accompany the other. But the cause-and-effect connection is, well, more challenging to determine.

Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to say that depression might be something of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, said a different way: they discovered that depression is frequently a more noticeable first symptom than tinnitus. As a result, it’s feasible that we simply notice the depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers suggest that anyone who has 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”. Which is just a fancy way of saying that tinnitus and depression might have some common causes, and that’s why they show up together so frequently.

Clearly, more research is needed to determine what that shared cause, if there is one, truly is. Because, in some situations, it might be possible that depression is actually caused by tinnitus; and in other situations, the reverse is true or they occur concurrently for different reasons. Right now, the relationships are just too murky to put too much confidence in any one theory.

Will I Experience Depression if I Suffer From Tinnitus?

In part, cause and effect is hard to understand because major depressive conditions can develop for a large number of reasons. Tinnitus can also develop for numerous reasons. In most cases, tinnitus manifests as a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Occasionally, the sound changes (a thump, a whump, various other noises), but the underlying idea is the same. Noise damage over a long period of time is usually the cause of chronic tinnitus that is probably permanent.

But there can be more serious causes for chronic tinnitus. Long lasting ringing in the ears can be caused by traumatic brain injury for example. And tinnitus can occur sometimes with no recognizable cause.

So if you have chronic tinnitus, will you develop depression? The wide variety of causes of tinnitus can make that challenging to predict. But what seems fairly clear is that if you leave your tinnitus untreated, your risks will probably increase. The reason might be the following:

  • For many individuals it can be a frustrating and exhausting undertaking to attempt to deal with the sounds of tinnitus that won’t go away.
  • The ringing and buzzing can make social communication harder, which can cause you to socially isolate yourself.
  • Tinnitus can make doing certain things you love, such as reading, difficult.

Dealing With Your Tinnitus

Fortunately, the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression teaches us that we might be able to find respite from one by treating the other. From cognitive-behavioral therapy (which is created to help you overlook the sounds) to masking devices (which are created to drown out the sound of your tinnitus), the right treatment can help you decrease your symptoms and stay centered on the joy in your life.

To put it in a different 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 your life will have a lot less interruption.

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

Don’t Forget, It’s Still Unclear What The Cause And Effect is

Medical professionals are becoming more focused on keeping your hearing healthy because of this.

At this stage, we’re still in a chicken and egg scenario with regards to depression and tinnitus, but we’re pretty certain that the two are connected. Whichever one began first, treating tinnitus can have a considerable positive effect. And that’s why this insight is important.

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