The Connection Between Tinnitus And Depression

Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a chicken-or-egg situation. You have a ringing in your ears. And it’s making you feel pretty low. Or, it’s possible you were feeling a little depressed before the ringing began. You’re just not certain which started first.

That’s exactly what scientists are trying to find out regarding the connection between tinnitus and depression. That there is a link between tinnitus and major depressive disorders is rather well established. The notion that one tends to come with the other has been born out by numerous studies. But the cause-and-effect relationship is, well, more challenging to detect.

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 a different way: They noticed that you can sometimes identify an issue with depression before tinnitus becomes obvious. It’s likely, as a result, that we just notice depression first. This study indicates that if somebody has been diagnosed with depression, it’s definitely a good idea for them to have a tinnitus screening.

The theory is that depression and tinnitus might share a common pathopsychology and be frequently “comorbid”. Which is just a technical way of saying that depression and tinnitus might have some shared causes, and that’s the reason why they manifest together so frequently.

Of course, more research is required to figure out what that common cause, if it exists, truly is. Because it’s also possible that, in some circumstances, tinnitus causes depression; and in other cases, the reverse is true or they happen concurrently for different reasons. Right now, the connections are just too murky to put too much confidence in any one theory.

If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Develop Depression?

Major depressive conditions can occur from many causes and this is one reason it’s hard to pin down a cause and effect relationship. Tinnitus can also occur for many reasons. In many cases, tinnitus presents as a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Occasionally with tinnitus, you will hear other sounds including 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. Long lasting ringing in the ears can be caused by traumatic brain injury for example. And sometimes, tinnitus can even happen for no discernible reason whatsoever.

So if you have chronic tinnitus, will you experience depression? The wide variety of causes of tinnitus can make that difficult to know. But what seems quite clear is that if you leave your tinnitus untreated, your risks may increase. The following reasons may help sort it out:

  • The noises of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away by itself, can be a daunting and frustrating experience for some.
  • The ringing and buzzing can make interpersonal communication more difficult, which can cause you to socially separate yourself.
  • Tinnitus can make doing certain things you love, like reading, challenging.

Managing Your Tinnitus

Fortunately, the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus teaches us that we may be able to get relief from one by treating the other. You can minimize your symptoms and stay centered on the positive aspects of your life by addressing your tinnitus using treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy (helping you disregard the sounds) or masking devices (created to drown out the noise).

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

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

Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Clear

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

We’re pretty certain that depression and tinnitus are linked even though we’re not sure exactly what the connection is. Whether the ringing in your ears or the depression began first, managing your tinnitus can help significantly. And that’s why this insight is important.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Schedule an appointment to see if hearing aids could benefit you.