Depression Has a Link to Hearing Loss

Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a chicken-or-egg scenario. There’s a ringing in your ears. And you’re feeling down about it. Or maybe before the ringing began you were already feeling a bit depressed. You’re just not certain which happened first.

When it comes to the connection between tinnitus and depression, that’s exactly what scientists are trying to figure out. It’s rather well established that there is a connection between depressive disorders and tinnitus. The idea that one often comes with the other has been born out by numerous studies. But it’s far more difficult to understand the exact cause and effect relationship.

Does Depression Cause Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to contend that depression may be somewhat of a precursor to tinnitus. Or, said a different way: They noticed that you can at times recognize an issue with depression before tinnitus becomes apparent. It’s likely, as a result, that we just notice depression first. This study suggests that if somebody has been diagnosed with depression, it’s definitely a good idea for them to have a tinnitus screening.

The idea is that depression and tinnitus may share a common pathopsychology and be commonly “comorbid”. In other words, there could be some shared causes between tinnitus and depression which would cause them to appear together.

Needless to say, more research is necessary to determine what that shared cause, if it exists, truly is. Because, in certain situations, it may be possible that depression is actually caused by tinnitus; in other situations the opposite is true and in yet others, the two occur at the same time but aren’t linked at all. We can’t, right now, have much confidence in any one theory because we simply don’t know enough about what the connection is.

Will I Experience Depression if I Suffer From Tinnitus?

In part, cause and effect is tough to understand because major depressive conditions can develop for a large number of reasons. There can also be a number of reasons for tinnitus to happen. Tinnitus normally will cause a ringing or buzzing in your ears. Occasionally, the sound varies (a thump, a whump, various other noises), but the underlying concept is the same. Normally, chronic tinnitus, the type that doesn’t go away after a short period of time, is the result of noise damage over a long period of time.

But there can be more acute causes for chronic tinnitus. Permanent ringing in the ears is sometimes caused by traumatic brain injury for example. And tinnitus can occur sometimes with no obvious cause.

So will you develop depression if you suffer from chronic tinnitus? The wide variety of causes of tinnitus can make that challenging to know. But it is evident that your chances will rise if you neglect your tinnitus. The reason may be the following:

  • The noises of the tinnitus, and the fact that it won’t go away by itself, can be a daunting and aggravating experience for many.
  • The buzzing and ringing can make interpersonal communication harder, which can lead you to socially isolate yourself.
  • Tinnitus can make doing some things you enjoy, such as reading, challenging.

Managing Your Tinnitus

Fortunately, the comorbidity of depression and tinnitus teaches us that we might be able to get relief from one by managing the other. From cognitive-behavioral therapy (which is designed to help you ignore the sounds) to masking devices (which are made to drown out the sound of your tinnitus), the right treatment can help you lessen your symptoms and stay centered on the things in life that bring you joy.

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

That won’t stop depression in all situations. But treating tinnitus can help according to research.

Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Apparent

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

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

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