Depression Has a Connection to Hearing Loss

Woman with tinnitus depressed on her couch.

It’s a chicken-or-egg situation. You have some ringing in your ears. And it’s causing you to feel pretty low. Or, maybe you were feeling a bit depressed before the ringing began. Which one came first is just not certain.

That’s exactly what experts are trying to figure out regarding the connection between depression and tinnitus. That there is a link between tinnitus and major depressive conditions is fairly well established. The notion that one often comes with the other has been well established by numerous studies. But the cause-and-effect connection is, well, more challenging to detect.

Is Depression Caused by Tinnitus?

One study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders appears to contend that a precursor to tinnitus might be depression. Or, said another way: They found that you can sometimes identify an issue with depression before tinnitus becomes apparent. It’s possible, as a result, that we simply notice depression first. In the publication of their study, the researchers indicate that anyone who goes through a screening for depression may also want to be tested for tinnitus.

Shared pathopsychology might be the base cause of both disorders and the two are commonly “comorbid”. In other words, there could be some shared causes between depression and tinnitus which would cause them to appear together.

But in order to identify what the common cause is, more research will be required. Because it’s also feasible that, in certain cases, tinnitus results in depression; in other circumstances the reverse is true and in yet others, the two occur at the same time but aren’t linked at all. We can’t, at this point, have much confidence in any one theory because we just don’t know enough about what the connection is.

If I Suffer From Tinnitus Will I Develop Depression?

In part, cause and effect is hard to understand because major depressive disorder can develop for a wide variety of reasons. Tinnitus can also develop for many reasons. In most cases, tinnitus manifests as a buzzing or ringing in your ears. Occasionally with tinnitus, you may hear other sounds like a thumping or beating. 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 serious causes for chronic tinnitus. Traumatic brain injuries, for example, have been recognized to cause permanent ringing in the ears. And at times, tinnitus can even develop for no apparent reason whatsoever.

So will you develop depression if you have chronic tinnitus? The wide variety of causes of tinnitus can make that challenging to predict. But what seems fairly clear is that if you don’t treat your tinnitus, your risks might increase. The reason might be as follows:

  • The sound of the tinnitus, and the fact that it doesn’t go away on its own, can be a challenging and aggravating experience for some.
  • You may wind up socially isolating yourself because the ringing and buzzing causes you to have difficulty with social communication.
  • Tinnitus can make doing certain things you take pleasure in, such as reading, challenging.

Treating Your Tinnitus

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

To put it another way, treatment can help your tinnitus fade to the background. Meaning that you’ll be capable of keeping up more easily with social activities. 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 cases. But treating tinnitus can help according to research.

Remember, Cause And Effect Isn’t Clear

That’s why medical professionals are starting to take a more robust interest in keeping your hearing healthy.

We’re pretty certain that tinnitus and depression are related although 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 considerably. 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.