Chronic Tinnitus, Anxiety & Depression

Chronic Tinnitus, Anxiety & Depression

In Family & Friendships, Health, Hearing Health, Hearing Loss by Dr. Robert Hooper Au.D.

Let’s time travel back before the pandemic to the last time you went to a noisy concert, athletic event, nightclub, or even a crowded restaurant. 

Do you remember how difficult it was to fall asleep at the end of the night? If the noise level during the event was high enough, you might have woken up with a ringing in your ears that made it challenging to go asleep. You may have heard a loud tone that seemed severe in comparison to the peacefulness of the night. 

This ringing tone usually fades with time, especially if it is related to a single loud incident. Chronic tinnitus sufferers, on the other hand, are not so fortunate. Rather than the tone improving over time, the ringing, buzzing, whirring, or crackling sound continues, sometimes for years.

Study finds tinnitus is connected to anxiety and depression

Chronic tinnitus sufferers were among the subjects of a recent study from the Catholic University of Rome’s Department of Otolaryngology. Their findings were published in the International Tinnitus Journal in a paper titled “Relationship between Tinnitus Perception and Psychiatric Discomfort.” This study looked at the link between chronic tinnitus and the environment and the mental health issues that patients with chronic tinnitus face.

The participants in the study had been suffering from tinnitus for an average of 6 years and 9 months, and the sounds they heard were of varying severity and would not go away. There was a statistically significant link with two unfavorable mental health outcomes: depression and anxiety, even though they came from various backgrounds regarding the severity of the disease. 

42.5 percent of the 80 tinnitus sufferers who took part in the study said they did not suffer from anxiety or depression. However, 26.3 percent of people said they had depressed symptoms, and 45 percent said they had anxiety. These percentages were significantly higher than those recorded in the general population, leading the researchers to question whether there was a statistically meaningful link.

There was, indeed. Taking all other factors into account, persons with persistent tinnitus were more likely to experience anxiety and sadness. 

It should also be mentioned that many who suffer from persistent tinnitus also suffer from hearing loss. In fact, just 16% of people said they had normal hearing with their chronic tinnitus symptoms. Although hearing loss is linked to clinical depression and anxiety, the researchers discovered a separate link between chronic tinnitus and unfavorable mental health outcomes.

The mental effects of tinnitus

The researchers were intrigued by this statistical finding and wondered what might be behind the link. In some ways, it appears to be self-evident that chronic tinnitus, anxiety, and depression have a direct link. Those who suffer from continual ringing in their ears are in for a frustrating and even devastating experience. Some of these folks grow anxious and unhappy due to not quickly enjoying their preferred pastimes. 

However, there is an indirect link between social isolation and depression. Chronic tinnitus sufferers may be tempted to avoid settings where they are expected to communicate easily with others. They may find it challenging to engage in daily tasks, preferring to avoid them because of the constant ringing, buzzing, whirring, sloshing, or grinding sound in the background. If this is the case, social isolation may result in a variety of negative mental health consequences. When people avoid social interactions with the people they care about, they may get irritated, furious, fearful that the experience will never stop, or even despairing about their own future.

New hearing aids can help alleviate symptoms

The good news is that there are treatments and therapies available for chronic tinnitus. New hearing aid technology is meant to block out persistent sounds in the ears. These devices can be incredibly useful in restoring tranquility to your listening environment. We now know that positive effects on mental health, such as depression and anxiety, could decrease. 

If you suspect you might have persistent tinnitus, don’t wait to seek help from our team, especially if you’re experiencing sadness or anxiety as a result. Contact us today to learn about treatment options.