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, perhaps you were feeling a bit depressed before the ringing started. You’re just not sure which happened first.

When it comes to the connection between depression and tinnitus, that’s exactly what experts are attempting to figure out. That there is a connection between tinnitus and major depressive disorders is fairly well established. Many studies have shown that one often accompanies the other. But the cause-and-effect relationship is, well, more difficult to discern.

Is Depression Caused by Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to say that a precursor to tinnitus might be depression. Or, to put it a different way: They discovered that you can sometimes recognize an issue with depression before tinnitus becomes apparent. Consequently, it’s possible that we simply notice the depression first. This research suggests that if someone has been diagnosed with depression, it’s probably a good idea for them to have a tinnitus screening.

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

Clearly, more research is necessary to determine what that shared cause, if there is one, truly is. Because, in some cases, it might be possible that depression is actually caused by tinnitus; in other cases the reverse is true and in yet others, the two happen at the same time but aren’t related at all. Right now, the relationships are just too murky to put too much confidence in any one theory.

If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Experience Depression?

Major depressive disorders can develop from numerous 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 happen. Tinnitus normally will cause a buzzing or ringing in your ears. In some cases with tinnitus, you will hear other sounds like a thumping or beating. Noise damage over a long period of time is usually the cause of chronic tinnitus that is probably permanent.

But there can be more severe causes for chronic tinnitus. Traumatic brain injuries, for example, have been known to cause permanent ringing in the ears. And in some cases, tinnitus can even happen for no perceptible reason at all.

So if you have chronic tinnitus, will you experience depression? The answer is a challenging one to predict because of the variety of causes for tinnitus. But what seems pretty clear is that if you don’t treat your tinnitus, your chances will probably increase. The reason may be the following:

  • The buzzing and ringing can make interpersonal communication more difficult, which can lead you to socially separate yourself.
  • Tinnitus can make doing some things you love, like reading, difficult.
  • For some individuals it can be a frustrating and draining undertaking to try and deal with the sounds of tinnitus that won’t go away.

Managing Your Tinnitus

What the comorbidity of tinnitus and depression tells us, thankfully, is that by managing the tinnitus we may be able to offer some relief from the depression (and, possibly, vice versa). From cognitive-behavioral therapy (which is designed to help you disregard the sounds) to masking devices (which are created to drown out the noise of your tinnitus), the correct treatment can help you minimize your symptoms and stay centered on the joy in your life.

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

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

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

Medical professionals are becoming more interested in keeping your hearing healthy because of this.

We’re pretty confident that tinnitus and depression are connected even though we’re not sure exactly what the relationship is. Whichever one started first, treating tinnitus can have a significant positive effect. And that’s why this information is important.

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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.