Is there a link between Tinnitus and Depression?

The subject of whether there is a link between depression and tinnitus has often been discussed in medical circles. Tinnitus is a Latin word which means “ringing” and describes the primary sensation of the condition which is a ringing in the ears.

Tinnitus is a surprisingly common condition for an ailment that doesn’t perhaps get as much media focus as it deserves, with about 1 in 5 people between the ages of fifty-five and sixty-five reporting Tinnitus symptoms, and approximately one in three people suffering from the condition during some stage in their life.

Objectively assessing whether there is a causal link between depression and tinnitus is difficult, because depression is known to often have many contributory factors, and whilst a constant ringing in your ears may certainly be one of them; proving that this is, in fact, the main cause is more difficult.

Notable sufferers of Tinnitus have included Ludwig Van Beethoven, Howard Hughes, David Letterman, Barbra Streisand, Vincent Van Gogh and Ronald Reagan, and certainly there is anecdotal evidence to indicate that there can be a link between depression and suffering from tinnitus.

The degree of ringing varies greatly between sufferers, and this may also account for why a direct causal link between Tinnitus and Depression is so hard to pin down. Because in the same way that hearing light background music in a bar may not bother you in the slightest, but a raucous din in the same bar may send you slightly mad; the volume of the sound that you hear in your head is both difficult to measure if you aren’t experiencing it personally, and also hard to objectively measure.

It may well be then that at higher pitches there is a greater link between Tinnitus and Depression, but this hasn’t yet been proven scientifically.

Recently there have been strides made in the treatment of Tinnitus with some interesting effects being noted with certain treatment regimes.

It has been noticed for example that taking the drug Lidocaine, which is an anesthetic that is commonly used in hospitals around the world, has the effect of reducing the ringing sound for about two-thirds of tinnitus sufferers for approximately five minutes.

So, while this is clearly not a cure (as the ringing comes back after five minutes), there is now clear medical evidence to support the hypothesis that tinnitus is a medical condition that can be treated. We simply need to discover the exact mechanisms that cause the sound to turn-off.

If these mechanisms can be found then hopefully the question of whether tinnitus causes depression, or indeed the equally interesting question of whether it is possible for depression to cause tinnitus (again not proven) will become a moot point and it can be cured and consigned to a footnote in medical journals.

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